Sept. 3, 2003
ATLANTA – With a talented group of returnees from last season, the Georgia Tech men’s cross country team is looking to return to the top part of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.
“We have nowhere to go but up,” said head coach Alan Drosky, “We’ve got an opportunity to be a pretty good team. Our conference is one of the toughest in the country, so you’ve got to be able to put some guys out there who are healthy and ready to run. And on the men’s side, I believe that we have a very talented group of guys.”
Seniors Kyle Rabbitt and Neil McDonagh return after redshirting last season to join Brendon Mahoney in leading the men’s team. “Having Kyle back is great,” said Drosky, “he took his running to a whole new level during the past track season. Join that with Brendon, who finished 12th in the 2002 conference meet, and Neil, who is right there with Brendon, and we’ve got a pretty good group.” Mahoney ran two races for the Jackets in 2002, and was Tech’s top finisher in both. Prior to his 12th-place finish at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, he finished 14th at the Auburn Invitational in a season-best 8K time of 24:36.82.
The trio of Rabbitt, Mahoney, and McDonagh not only gives the Jackets’ a strong front, but it also pushes the younger athletes to run better. “Usually when freshmen come in, they are battling to be our 5th, 6th, and 7th guys, and last year, they had to be the two, three, and four guys. But with the freshmen knowing that they have a solid group running up higher and closer to the top, I believe that they will run better as well, ” Drosky said.
One of those benefiting from this strong front is sophomore Rob Kuhn. Kuhn was Tech’s top finisher in his first three races, and second in his other three. His top 8K time of 25:37.42 came at the Auburn Invitational. “Towards the end of the cross country season last year, he got a little tired, which isn’t uncommon for a freshman,” said Drosky. “But he’s a very strong runner and he had a great track season. He’s going to be a very solid athlete for our team.”
Senior Jimmy DeYonker will also be a factor this season and Drosky hopes that he can build upon a breakthrough year in track to help this year’s team.
Behind these five guys are sophomores Mark Luffel and Clark Rivers and junior Gaben Moore. “These athletes were thrown into the fire last season. We redshirted them in track this past year so that they could have this long period of time to develop because they didn’t get that when they came in, ” reported Drosky. “They had a productive spring since they were not racing and are expected to come back stronger and ready to run.”
A talented group of newcomers has been added and Drosky fully expects them to have a significant impact right away. Cristan Duvall (Duluth, Ga.) is a three-time Georgia AA State Champion and finished as the fastest runner on the state meet course. “With freshmen, you always wonder if they can come in and make the adjustment from high school cross country to college, and how soon that adjustment can be made. It seems like Cristan is one of those that would have an easier time and could adjust to that distance leap very well, ” Drosky said.
Another freshman that is expected to have an immediate impact is David Herren (Rome, Ga.). He won the AAAA state championship and ranked as the top athlete in the state in the mile and two-mile during the track season. “While it may be a little more difficult for him to adjust to the five-mile distance, I still think that he’ll adjust very well because he’s such a strong athlete,” said Drosky.
The duo of Chris Clarke (Mechanicsville, Va.) and Blake Fertitta (Fayetteville, Ga.) had solid senior years in high school and will be battling for the Nos. 6-8 spots in the lineup and are also expected to contribute to the team this season.
“I think we have a solid group of six or seven runners, and that will put us in a much better situation than we had last year,” said Drosky.
With this solid group of runners, the 2003 cross country season should be an exciting one to watch.