SALISBURY, Md. - The Salisbury University cross country teams come into the 2014 fall season on different ends of the spectrum, and offer two exciting team dynamics that the Sea Gulls look to build on and develop through the year.
With two All-Capital Athletic Conference second-team selections from 2013 returning to lead a strong nucleus of veteran leadership, the men's team looks to improve upon its third-place finish in the conference and compete for its 10th CAC title, while the women's side enters a new chapter for the program, with only two returning runners from last season
Head Coach Jim Jones enters his 16th season leading the program in what he considers to be "a tale of two teams."
"One is virtually brand new with only two veterans coming back on the women's squad. That is exciting to see what the future holds with a young team." Of the returning experience on the men's team, he added, "This is probably one of the better teams we've had over the past six-to-eight years as far as talent and ability."
Cloud was one of the Sea Gulls' strongest runners in 2013, placing in the top 25 in three of her six races on the season, including 22nd with a team-leading time of 23:52.20 in the CAC championship.
"Olivia is a hard worker and a good team leader," Jones said. "She will be out leading our team while we are running."
Hartman also provided a strong showing at the conference title race, finishing third on the team with a time of 24:43.60, which was good for 38th overall. It was her highest finish in the four races of her 2013 season.
"Having a fresh start on the women's side is going to be good for us," Jones said. "With the combination of the transfers and the freshmen, there is a good nucleus of talent that can get us back to where we want to be; I am excited about these young people learning and growing."
With 2013 All-CAC selections, senior Jeremy Skarda and junior Thomas Burke, set to lead the men's side into 2014, the Sea Gulls are looking to run strong this season with a team returning three seniors and three juniors to provide a strong core of veteran athletes.
Burke, who posted Salisbury's highest finish of the year in 2013 with a time of 20:15.61 to place seventh at Elizabethtown, and Skarda both delivered strong performances at the CAC championship, placing 15th and 16th, respectively. With times of 26:31.30 and 26:31.90, the duo finished second and third on the team.
"Tom and Jeremy have great leadership and a very good work ethic, and I'm going to throw George Martinez in there, and Eric Wood and Brandon Horning; those men will really lead us throughout the year as leaders and athletically, too," Jones said.
Martinez and Horning are both returning seniors, while Wood is entering his junior year, and the trio provided more strong races during 2013. Martinez placed 19th, just behind Skarda, in the CAC championships with a time of 26:45.00, while Wood followed in 25th with a time of 27:00.30. It was the highest finish for Martinez on the year, while Wood also grabbed a 19th-place finish at Elizabethtown (20:59.85).
Horning added another strong runner at Elizabethtown, placing 14th (20:43.90), and added a 28th-place finish in the CAC championships.
"I think that they will be able to help our team this year and in the future," Jones said.
The Sea Gulls will host two races this season, opening with the Salisbury University Fall Classic at Winter Place Park on August 30 at 9:45 a.m., before hosting the Don Cathcart Invitational on September 27 at the same place and time.
With the two home races and three more events away from Winter Place Park, the Sea Gulls will be preparing for the CAC championships on November 1 in Fredericksburg, Virginia at the University of Mary Washington. With the event beginning at 11 a.m., the Gulls will be looking for their 10th men's CAC title and ninth women's championship.