Cross country teams boast young, deep squads

Cross country is working its way to being a prominent program at the University of Miami. Each year brings a stronger and bigger group of runners for both the men’s and women’s teams.

“This is the deepest group by far,” senior Alex Brutvan said. “We have seven freshmen, which is compared to the roster of six guys when I started my freshman year.”

The men’s squad is made up of 16 runners. In a four-year span, that is quite strong growth for a sport. The expansion on both sides has greatly increased the excitement among the runners and makes them believe that they will be a part of something special down the road.

“We want to try and focus on moving towards the middle and gradually move towards the top over five years,” Brutvan said.

A big factor this year for the cross country team is youth. Along with the seven freshmen on the men’s side, the women will have five freshmen runners.

“We are looking for dedicated people that want to improve,” said senior Melanie Schultz.

The amount of freshmen on both sides almost equals the total roster when both Schultz and Brutvan began running for the University of Miami. The hope among the team is that the trend will continue and more athletes will be interested in cross country.

Among those freshmen, Eric Miller and Andrew Chuplis have stood out among their teammates as runners that can step in right away and contribute. The general feeling, however, is that there is raw talent that needs to be developed so the freshmen can be assets throughout their four years at UM.

The women’s cross country team is led by Schultz, who was an All-South Region performer last season. The only other returning senior is Melissa Preston.

The men return two seniors, Brutvan and James Mullaly, as well as junior Tomas Berry. Brutvan and Berry were the top two finishers for the Hurricanes last season.

“We brought in a number of guys [who are] not elite, but pretty good,” said men’s Head Coach Mike Ward. “Eric Miller was the No. 6 runner in Texas and Ryan Woodlee looks pretty good. We hope these guys pave the way to get better kids at the university.”

The Hurricanes know that they have a tough second season ahead of them in the ACC.

“[The ACC] is one of the top conferences,” Brutvan said. “We didn’t do so well last year, but we have some experience now and we know how competitive it is.”

The cross country team will begin its season in West Palm Beach in the Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish Invitational on Saturday.

Denis Brown can be reached at