Both UNC Asheville men's and women's cross country teams began preparations for hte 2013 season with time trials on Tuesday night. Below is a preview of the upcoming season.
The UNC Asheville men’s and women’s cross country programs both finished in fifth place in the Big South Conference last year. This year both teams want to do a little better.
On the men’s side, sixth-year coach Jesse Norman believes his team could be the best they’ve been since he came to Asheville in 2007.
“Our men’s squad has the potential to be very good,” stated Norman. “We have a chance to crack the top four of the Big South Conference this season. That’s going to be our goal this year, to be in the top four.”
Norman believes his team has a nice mixture of returnees and newcomers that should produce success this year. However, it will take both the veterans and the newcomers having good seasons to get into the Big South’s top four.
“We need everyone to step up this year to accomplish what we want to accomplish,” declared Norman. “Our returnees have to show improvement from last year to this season, while our newcomers have to be ready to make an impact as freshmen.”
Junior Kevin Paradise has been Asheville’s top runner during his freshman and sophomore years. He came close to earning All-Conference honors by finishing in 15th place at the league’s championship meet. Norman hopes he can get into the top 10 this season.
“Kevin has been our top runner and has progressed each year,” stated Norman. “This season we want to get him into the top 10 and be All-Conference. He’s capable, and we’re confident he will accomplish that this fall.”
Asheville’s lone senior on this year’s roster is Sebastian Paniagua. The senior from Haymarket, Va. has done a solid job in the classroom and is a leader on the team.
“What we like about Sebastian is that’s he a vocal leader, and the team really looks up to him,” commented Norman. “We need him to get a little stronger this season.”
Brent Schouler is one of just two juniors on this year’s club along with Paradise.
“Brent adds depth to our roster and our team,” explained Norman. “We just need him to make that next step this year. He trains really well and now we need him to take that into meets.”
Sophomore Andy Thornburg enjoyed some success as a freshman last season. He’s one of the Bulldogs that Norman is counting on in 2013.
“We believe Andy has the potential to be really good,” declared Norman. “He’s worked hard this summer and looks to be ready. We need Andy to have a good year this season.”
Sophomore Ryan Catrine is expected to contribute this year.
“Ryan is a solid five-to-seven runner,” said Norman. “I’ve been really pleased with his summer training and hopefully that will translate to this fall. He’s ready to go and chomping at the bit for the season to start.”
Jeremy Gower is a sophomore on this year’s team who is looking for a healthy season.
“We just want Jeremy to be healthy this year,” said Norman. “He’s a talented runner who has potential.”
Sophomore Patrick Osborne is another returnee that Norman is counting on in 2013.
“Patrick is another key to our success this season,” explained Norman. “He’s a tough kid who if he runs like he’s capable could be in the mix for an All-Conference spot.”
Asheville has four freshmen who should contribute to the mix this year.
Start with Carrboro native Dominic Collichio, whom Norman is quite excited about. Collichio was a dominant runner at Carrboro HS.
“I believe Dom has a chance to be really, really good,” declared Norman. “He had a great high school career with some really good times. Dom just has to understand the process of what it takes to be successful in collegiate racing.”
Freshman Caleb Smith enjoyed a great career at Patrick County HS in Stuart, Va.
“We’re quite excited to have Caleb in our program. He’s a diamond in the rough,” stated Norman. “He’ll push Dom to be our top freshman runner this season.”
Jacob Fink joins the Asheville roster after a stellar career at Carson HS in Salisbury.
“Jacob had some injuries in his senior year in high school and we’re going to try and ease him back this season,” admitted Norman. “He has potential to be a good runner but we’re going to take things slow with him and make sure he’s 100 percent healthy.”
Rounding out Asheville’s roster is Nathan Kirse from Mt. Tabor HS in Winston-Salem.
“We look at Nathan as more of a middle distance runner, but we’re glad he’s on the team,” said Norman. “We’re anxious to see how he develops.”
Sophomore Skyler Winchester could be slated to red-shirt in 2013 after a solid freshman campaign in 2012.
“We’ll probably red-shirt Skyler,” admitted Norman. “He’s had to battle some injuries, and we’ll just have to see.”
The women’s team graduated some key runners from last year’s club but still has a good nucleus back in 2013.
“We finished fifth last year and that was an improvement, but we want to get into top four in the Big South this season,” stated Norman. “If everything went right, I think we have a shot at getting into third place, but the main thing is we want to move up from last year.
“I really believe we have the potential to be a little better this year,” added Norman. “We have a little more depth with our freshmen and have some returnees who could make a run at All-Conference.”
The Bulldogs will look for a big year from fifth-year senior Melanie Kulesz. She earned All-Conference honors as a freshman and sophomore and just missed last season.
“If we can get Melanie healthy and running like she did a few years ago, she could be one of the top runners in the Big South this year,” declared Norman. “She’s had a great career and would like to see her have a big senior year. “
Junior Adrian Etheridge enjoyed great track seasons both in indoor and outdoor a year ago. Norman looks for that to carry over to cross country in 2013.
“Adrian was just fantastic in track last year. We just need that to translate to cross country,” commented Norman. “If she runs like she did during track season, Adrian will make a run at All-Conference.”
Senior Kylie Smith rejoins the Asheville program after sitting out last season.
“I’m really glad Kylie is back with us,” said Norman. “She’s in great shape and ready to go in 2013.”
Rachel Carson is one of three seniors on this year’s club.
“Rachel is healthy this year and ready to compete,” explained Norman. “If we can keep her healthy, she’ll be a real asset to our team this season.”
Red-shirt sophomore Kasey Briggs is another runner who Norman wants to be healthy this season.
“If Kasey can stay healthy all year, she could be in our top five,” stated Norman. “She’s progressing really well after missing last season.”
Five sophomores are on Asheville’s roster this season. All five contributed in 2012, and that should continue this year.
Sophomore Erin Dalton, like Adrian Etheridge, had a big year in track.
“Erin was one of the top runners in the Big South in track in the spring,” declared Norman. “If we get those kinds of performances in the fall, then she could be in the top 15 in the Big South and maybe even push for All-Conference.”
Kelsie Rubino had a solid cross country season in 2012. She and Dalton will lead the sophomores this year.
“Kelsie did a nice job last year, and I expect her and Erin to make a run at finishing in the top 15 in the Big South,” said Norman. “She’s had to work through some injuries but looks ready to go for the fall.”
Alyssa Lashway has posted some good times in the summer.
“We like what we’ve seen with Alyssa’s summer training and that should carry over to the fall season,” stated Norman. “Alyssa just needs to get a little stronger this season.”
Asheville’s final sophomore, Scarlett Beamon, had a solid year in 2012 and was the Bulldogs’ fifth runner last season.
“Scarlett did a nice job as a freshman, and we’re glad to have her for three more years,” said Norman. “She’ll add depth to our roster and push everyone.”
Norman is very excited about his recruiting class and believes a few of them are ready to contribute right away.
Amy Castle had a sensational prep career at St. Clairsville HS in Barnesville, Ohio.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Amy and developing her into a great collegiate runner,” admitted Norman. “Amy has tremendous potential and will be heard from this season.”
Sarah Heisner should compete with Castle as the Bulldogs’ top freshman. She’ll join the Asheville program from Saint Johns, Fla., after running at Creekside HS.
“I expect Sarah and Amy to be quite competitive right off the bat,” commented Norman. “Sarah has posted some great times in high school, and we’re excited to have her in Asheville. She’s just going to have to adjust to running in the mountains after running in Florida.”
Raleigh native Katie Gamble ran at Millbrook HS, and Norman believe she’ll be heard from this year.
“I believe Katie could be a dark horse this season,” said Norman. “I’m excited about her potential, too.”
Freshman Marissa Banks from Wake Forest, N.C. could be red-shirted in 2013.
“Marissa is a hard-working athlete who has some great skills,” stated Norman. “We’re looking at red-shirting her this season.”
Both Bulldog cross country teams open the 2013 season at Western Carolina on Aug. 30 in the Catamount Classic. Asheville hosts the Cross Country Carnival at Asheville Christian Academy on Sept. 14. The Big South Championship will be held at VMI on Nov. 2.