Aug. 25, 2003
Baylor has a rich tradition of distance running excellence; perhaps nobody knows that more than head coach Todd Harbour. He earned All-America honors as a standout distance specialist for the Green and Gold.
Entering his fourth season as the head coach, Harbour believes the team is well on its way to returning to the upper echelon of collegiate cross country.
"I think the men's team has as good of senior leadership as it has had since I've been here," Harbour said. "I'm excited about the women's team as well. It's going to be a young team, but we've got a solid solid nucleus from which to continue to build the program."
After having no seniors on the squad last year, the men's team has two top-notch senior leaders in 2003. NCAA qualifier Kyle King and fellow senior Matt Chance take the reigns of a men's team that was on the verge of breaking out a season ago.
King was the lone NCAA qualifier for the Bears last season; he finished 79th at the Championships. Not only is he working hard to return to the meet, he hopes to take his team along for the trip.
Chance had several stellar races last season including a 28th-place showing at the Pre-National meet and a Top 25 finish at the Big 12 Championships.
The two seniors on the men's squad have tasted success and they are hungry for more.
"The men's team has been knocking on the door and Kyle and Matt have been working hard to put the team in good position," Harbour said.
Experienced sophomores also should make strong contributions to the rising men's team.
Bo Price, Rob Morrow and Cody Wells all ran well as freshmen. Price started his career by taking the individual titles in his first two collegiate meets. The three proceeded to compete all season. They finished out the year by finishing 34-36 at the NCAA South Central Regional.
"The sophomores will have to step up after running great as freshmen," Harbour added.
Harbour also looks forward to the return of Jason Baker. After a strong rookie campaign that included 36th-place finishes at the Big 12 and NCAA Regional meets, Baker was sidelined with injuries last season. He should be back in full force in 2003.
Talented newcomers also will join the cast in 2003. Mitch Sanders and Chris Vidrine enter Baylor as experienced clutch performers. Micah Bowen also has the potential to be a strong contributor.
The women lost an incredible leader in All-Big 12 performer Debbie Thornhill, but a lack of age does not necessarily mean a lack of experience. With only a few upperclass members, the women will rely on the raw talent of the youth in 2003.
Thornhill was not the only loss the women have suffered from last season. Three seniors made great strides for the program, including Stephanie Bennett and Leah Marbach, leaving it in the capable hands of their teammates.
Seniors Erin Dixon and Megan McCoin will have to step up into leadership roles this season.
An All-Region performer, Dixon took a medical redshirt last season, but she should be back to full strength in 2003. Harbour believes that McCoin is one of the most notable overachievers he has ever coached. She excells in the classroom and has the opportunity to be a leader on the course this season as well.
Jessa Vacek Chance had a strong finish last season, taking 21st at the NCAA South Central Regional. She came on strong at the Big 12 meet, finishing 32nd.
The clear leader among the younger athletes is Angela Marvin. She started her career with a bang, recording Top 20 finishes at the Big 12 Championships and the NCAA Regionals. After sitting out the indoor track season with mono, she finished strong as well, taking the Big 12 3,000-meter steeplechase title. She is looking for more top performances to add to her highlight reel in 2003.
"Angela will be our frontrunner until somebody knocks her off, and they'll be pushing her," Harbour said.
Also pushing her way to the top this season is Lisa Cornelius. Injuries hampered her freshman season, but she should come back strong in 2003.
Harbour also is expecting strong performances from Lindsey Price. She has run sparingly the past two seasons, but Harbour believes this could be her breakout year.
The incoming freshmen have proven their stamina at the high school level, and Harbour hopes they can make strong contributions collegiately. Brittany Brockman was the 3,200-meter state champion in the spring. Monique Ortega and Brockman both have clocked 3,200-meter times that are among the Top 10 in the state prep recordbooks. Britt McGuire also represented her school in the state meet in the mile in 2003. All three will have to make the adjustment to running longer distances.
Overall, Harbour is pleased with the newcomers. He believes that all of them are capable of experiencing as much success as Marvin in their rookie seasons.
"We lost three top athletes, but our younger runners have the ability to step up and make a significant impact for our women's team this season," Harbour said.
The ace in the hole for both Baylor squads this season is that they will host the regional meet for the second-straight year. Both teams were on the verge of NCAA berths last season, and they hope to get over the hump in 2003.