MOUNT VERNON – Coach Dan Schofer will rely on balance and depth this fall as his Cornell men's cross country team looks to make a move up the Midwest Conference ladder.
The Rams return five of their top seven runners from last year's squad that placed seventh in the conference. Cornell has 10 total letterwinners back, creating competitive practices this preseason.
"Our returners made nice improvements during track and throughout the summer," said Schofer, who enters his eighth season on the Hilltop. "Our guys have been focused since last fall and training has gone well so far. It seems like we will be in a position to improve significantly from last year."
Schofer will find out who emerges Friday when the season gets underway at the Grinnell Triangular. Grinnell is also the site of Cornell's second meet, the Les Duke Invitational, on Sept. 14, and the MWC Championships on Nov. 2.
Juniors Lawrence Dennis, Thomas Chenault, Jake Butts, and sophomores Josh Lindsay and Arturo Hernandez all competed at last year's regional meet, with Butts recording the best finish (106th) of the group. The Rams have four returnees that cracked the top 50 at conference in Dennis (25th), Chenault (40th), Butts (47th) and senior Thomas Guittar (50th).
"We have a fairly tight group without a clear front runner, which makes for great practices and a fun atmosphere each day," Schofer said. "Lawrence Dennis and Josh Lindsay are two of our early-season leaders, but Tom Chenault, Charlie Mesimore, CJ Horan, Jake Butts and Thomas Guittar are also in the mix."
The Rams added six first-year runners to the roster.
Starters lost to graduation are Jordan Kemme and Mike Kelso. Kemme was the team's lead runner in 2012, earning all-conference honors for placing 18th.
"With some experienced runners returning, we have a very patient and determined mind set," Schofer said. "Our goals ultimately come down to improving each week and performing at our best at the end of the fall."