For the men and women’s cross country teams, this season will mark a new journey, as they will compete in the ACC for the first time. Its ultimate goal: making school history.
This year, both teams will start anew with several freshmen newcomers. Unity will be essential for the up-and-coming team to excel this season.
“I think we have a really young team,” Alex Brutvan said. “We have five new freshmen this year, and the freshmen from last year. So we hadn’t been really reaching our team goals in the past few seasons, but I think this year we have the best team since I’ve been here.”
Head Coach Mike Ward, coaching both the men and women this season, will be depending on his top athletes to help guide the younger ones to success. Upperclassmen Melanie Schultz and Marilyn Ruiz will be leading the women, and Brutvan and sophomore Tom Berry for the men.
“We have to provide an example and a certain atmosphere for the rest of the team,” Berry said. “If you get into a situation where there is not a role model who’s not doing everything right and also not succeeding, you can be counterproductive to the team atmosphere.”
Besides guidance, the upperclassmen on both teams will provide the experience necessary to defeat their upcoming opponents. This combination of experience and new talent should lead both teams to successful seasons, specifically for Brutvan, the top finisher in all seven events at the FIU Invitational and Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish Invitational. Brutvan hopes to be a force to reckon with, as he comes off an injury recharged after deciding not to compete in junior nationals.
Competition for the top spot will be fierce for the men, especially for Berry, the Hurricanes’ second best finisher in all seven events last season. But moreso than personal success, the concern is team strength and performance.
“This year we definitely seem a little stronger, just in our time travel we have four guys that ran better than our No. 1,” Berry said. “So we are definitely going to have a stronger lead pack as opposed to Brutvan all the way in the front and the rest in the back. A lead pack is going to be the key.”
Schultz is also expected to do well this season after being the top finisher in five of the six meets last season, including individual victories at the Palm Beach and FIU Invitational. Schultz also recorded a 40th place finish at the NCAA South Region Cross Country Championships.
The lone senior on the team, Ruiz, performed impressively last season, with her highlight coming in the Hatter Cross Country Invitational, where she finished first.
“I hope we can all run as a pack. I want to get a name out there for us, like the boys,” Ruiz said.
Antoinette Cordova can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.