Clarksville, Ark.-Head Men's and Women's Cross Country Coach Brian Hull is hoping that his returning runners will reap the benefits of their past collegiate racing experiences.
Coming off a season in which the men’s team finished as conference runner-up for the first time in over a decade, the Ozarks cross country programs are striving for continued improvement. Driven by the expectations set after last season’s success, the men’s team will compete with eight runners this year. Ozarks returns 2010-11 Athlete of the Year award winner Tristan Cooper, along with three other seniors.
“We’ve got a lot of leadership and a lot of experience,” said Hull of his men’s squad. “I think that’s going to help some of our younger runners develop.”
Cooper, who finished second at the ASC Championships last season, is one of the team’s most seasoned runners and best leaders. It is hoped that his award winning season last year will add some momentum to this year’s team and help catapult the program into a more recognized group of athletes.
“Tristan holds that expectation to do better than he did last year and exceed this year’s expectations,” said Hull. “He is well deserved in that award and the amount of time and energy he puts into it and plus his academics are outstanding. The thing I really like about him receiving that award is that it actually gives our program some recognition.”
On the women’s side, the squad returns six runners. The team remains focused on moving up the conference ranks from their position at the end of last season. Hull is also hoping to get one of his female runners recognized in some way at the conference or regional level.
“The first goal is of course to do well and improve throughout the season, and once we get to the conference in the end of October, just to move up from where we were last year,” said Hull. “Another great goal though would be to try and get one of the ladies into a position to receive some type of conference recognition and then go on to regionals.”
With the team’s collegiate level running experience and work ethic, the women’s squad should have little trouble achieving their immediate goal of improvement.
“They’re just a really good group of girls to coach so I think it makes it a little bit easier to get them to do what they need to be doing, and then with them working as hard as they do to try to achieve their goals, our numbers will be better; the girls will be stronger as a whole.”
As long as his runners put everything they have into each and every competition, Hull will be able to consider the season a success. However, he is counting on both team’s experience to propel them across the finish line with improved times.
The team’s will open the season in September at the Memphis Twilight and then travel to Missouri before coming home to host the first race in school history since Ozarks joined the NCAA III.
By Emily Black, Student Assistant for Sports Information