Cross Country looks to run over competition

With a new head coach, assistant coaches and virtually all new rosters, the cross country teams aim to surpass the expectations of a ‘rebuilding’ season.

Granted PSU is a young squad, but talent can conquer age and that is one thing the Vikings seem to have. With four freshmen on the men’s team and two freshmen and two transfers on the women’s team, talent is what will bring victories and build a foundation for the program.

Like any other fall sport, it’s an extra long summer of preparation and practices before it is finally time to compete in September. Formal practices started for the Portland State Cross Country team on Aug. 27.

“When practices started in August what I really noticed was that we have a lot of talent on both sides of the team,” said assistant coach Mike Hickey.

Previously from Clackamas Community College, Hickey was hired by new head coach Toney Veney this summer.

“I’m excited about the passion of the team, the season and just getting started,” Hickey added. After the departure of the former cross country and track coaches Ken and Keith Woodard last season, many athletes left the PSU program.

However, there are four state high school champions that will be competing for the men and women’s teams. On the women’s side, Jenny Rodgers comes from a community college in Spokane, Wash. Another strong runner is Anne Kawasaki, a state champion from Hawaii. Only two returnees will be back for the women’s team and Ashley Tendick will be the one to look for this season.

“Ashley has helped us a lot already because she was here last season, and she will be a good leader for the team as well,” Hickey said.

An even younger men’s team will be lead by three freshman. There is only one returnee from last year’s squad, but Hickey believes it won’t hurt the team. Among the new faces is Evan Garich, a state high school champion from Klamath Union, Ore., who has been turning in impressive practice times. Chris Hollis, a freshmen from Stayton, Ore. and a state champion, looks to be another leader for the team. Paul Loprinzi, from Sandy, Ore., is expected to surprise people this season and be the third leader for the squad.

“This new group of guys looks excellent so far, so we’ll see what happens when the season starts,” Hickey said.

The Big Sky Conference is one of the top distance conferences in the nation. On the men’s side, Northern Arizona University looks to be the preseason favorite. On the women’s side, Weber State has the top ranking for the conference.

The coaching staff and team have high expectations for the coming season.

“Portland State has the framework to be competitive in the league this year, a good way to approach it is to be optimistic,” Hickey said. “I look forward to surprising teams, a fun year and making our mark as a team in the Big Sky.”