FROSTBURG, MD -
The Frostburg State men's and women's cross country squads enter the 2004 season with the theme of "new year, new team," but they also look to repeat a successful past that has seen both win the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference six times in the league's seven-year history.
On the men's side, a strong and experienced trio leads a large group of runners.
Junior Ed May (Bryantown, Md./LaPlata), junior Sid Bittinger (Midland, Md./Westmar) and senior Brian Bonn (Glen Burnie, Md./Glen Burnie) each have all-region potential.
May took home AMCC Runner of the Year honors last year after winning the AMCC championship in 28:24. He then finished 39th out of 249 runners at the NCAA Mid-East Regional in 27:31, just missing All-Region accolades by four places. His performance was an impressive jump from his 80th-place finish as a freshman.
"Ed had great cross country and indoor track seasons but an injury kept him out of outdoor track," said Randy Lowe, now in his fourth year as head coach of both the Bobcat men's and women's programs. "He's coming back hungry and looks to finish very high in the region this year."
Bittinger earned All-AMCC honors for the second straight year after placing sixth (28:55) at the conference championships. He struggled at the regional meet, finishing 92nd (28:40), but looks to build upon his strong track season when he won the 3,000-meter steeplechase (personal-best 9:45.39) at the Mason-Dixon Conference outdoor championships.
"Sid has finally made the adjustment to year-round training and racing," Lowe explained, noting that Westmar did not have a track and field program. "He should be able to be more consistent in races throughout the season."
Bonn was an All-AMCC selection after his third-place finish (28:35.5) and was also 55th at the NCAA regional meet (27:59). He also enjoyed a strong track season, winning titles in both the 800- (personal-record 1:54.40) and 1,500-meter runs (3:59.53) at the Mason-Dixon outdoor championships.
"Brian is one of the most talented middle-distance runners in the region," Lowe added.
Lowe's biggest challenge will be finding runners to fill the crucial fourth and fifth spots, but he has a large number of candidates from which to choose.
Seniors Jonathan Masse (Cumberland, Md./Fort Hill) and Kevin Ripple (Leonardtown, Md./Leonardtown) look for strong finishes to up-and-down careers after running sparingly last season.
Both have earned All-AMCC honors in the past and have been training hard over the summer in preparation for their final year.
Sophomores Andrew Parker (Silver Spring, Md./Springbrook) and Andy Watson (Gaithersburg, Md./Damascus) gained valuable experience last year.
Parker ran in five meets and also enjoyed a breakthrough track season, while Watson competed in all seven meets but missed the outdoor track campaign with an illness.
Junior Tyler Snyder (Hagerstown, Md./North Hagerstown) missed last year due to injury but has enjoyed a very good summer and could be a solid contributor.
Zach Gaudette (Queenstown, Md./Kent Island), Chris Negley (Frostburg, Md./Beall), Curt Ruble (Mineral Wells, W.Va./Parkersburg South) and Dan Simmons (Westminster, Md./Westminster) highlight a deep freshman class.
Gaudette was ninth at the Maryland Class 2A cross country meet as well as fifth in the state in the 3,200-meter outdoor track run, while Negley was third at the 1A cross country meet and fourth in the 1,600-meter outdoor track run.
Ruble finished ninth at the West Virginia AAA cross country championships and was also sixth in the 3,200-meter outdoor track run, and Simmons was 39th at the state 4A cross country meet and eighth in the 3,200-meter outdoor track run.
The Bobcat men placed 18th out of 35 teams at the NCAA Mid-East Regional last season, and Lowe looks for this squad to challenge for a spot in the top 10.
"We need our top three to stay healthy and run well, and it'll be nice to have a bunch of guys competing for the other two scoring spots," said Lowe. "We've been very focused at the AMCC championships in the past, and we now we need to bring that same focus to the regional meet."
With just five runners, the women's team certainly doesn't have the depth of the men's squad, but several talented performers should keep the Bobcats in the hunt for another conference title.
Sophomore Bonnie Axman (Burke, Va./James Robinson) returns after enjoying an outstanding rookie season. She earned All-AMCC honors after placing fourth at the conference championships (26:52) and was FSU's top finisher at the NCAA Mid-East Regional, placing 58th out of 264 runners (24:54). She was named to the All-Region Freshman team for her strong performance.
"Bonnie has had an outstanding summer and she looks poised for a major breakthrough season," said Lowe.
Junior Carolyn Kilkus (Rockville, Md./Richard Montgomery) is a two-time All-AMCC selection and the most experienced women's runner. Last season, she finished third (26:29) at the AMCC championships and 129th (26:17) at the NCAA regional meet. She has enjoyed a strong summer and will again be a valuable asset.
Sophomore Sheila Kurtz (Thurmont, Md./Boonsboro) aims to continue her development after a solid freshman year. She finished sixth (27:21) at the AMCC championships to earn all-conference honors and was also 167th (27:17) at the NCAA regional meet. She showed her talent as a middle distance runner during the track seasons, and Lowe looks for her to carry that over into the upcoming cross country year.
Freshman Katie Lyell (Newark, Del./Newark) is a promising newcomer who made huge progress during her senior year. At the Division I state outdoor track meet, she finished 12th in the 3,200-meter run and 16th in the 1,600-meter run.
Sophomore Sarah Morton (Swanton, Md./Westmar) returns to the squad after missing last year due to injury.
"With such a small group, the key for us will be to stay healthy," said Lowe of his women's team. "They're very dedicated and motivated, and they've been running well over the summer."
For further information on this release, contact:
Office of Sports Information
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-2303