On the move


Adam Hothersall

The Mountaineers cross country team heads into the 2016 season with veteran leadership, high expectations and a lot of talent coming back from a solid 2015 campaign.

The team’s goal is simple: win the Sun Belt.

“The men’s and women’s teams expectations are to challenge for a Sun Belt conference championship,” coach Michael Curcio said. “Being runners up the last two years have been both exciting and heartbreaking.”

Five seniors for the men return, including Michael Ellis and Chris Anderson who finished fourth and 22nd respectively at the Sun Belt Championships last season. The women have four seniors, including Tristin Van Ord and Torre Moser who finished second and 14th respectively.

“We like our seniors to lead by example. All of our top athletes came in as somewhat unheralded recruits,” Curcio said.  “Tristin [Van Ord] and Michael [Ellis] were not in our top five until their sophomore years.”

Having runners such as Van Ord and Ellis show the hard work and patience it takes to reach their full potential. It proves that the program thrives off of work ethic and dedication.

“They know that hard work and consistency really does pay off and they show that by doing the right things,” Curcio said. “In athletics you can really get out what you put into it.”

Moser believes leadership and molding the way for the younger runners work right into the culture of the program.

“I’m pumped to get the freshmen, sophomores and juniors up to their potential and ultimately [have them develop] as a team to win conference,” Moser said. “Our ultimate goal is to come in first, show the people who are new to the conference that we are the top dog and that we’re not someone to mess around with. We want to show the conference that we are here to compete and win.”

Ellis, who placed 31st at the NCAA Southeast Regional championships in the 10k with a personal best of 30:25.90, has his sights set high for the upcoming season as well, hoping to keep improving.

“My goals are to keep on improving like I have in the past years, hopefully being able to move up from the fourth spot to the first spot in the conference meet,” Ellis said. “The past two years we have gotten second place [overall] at Sunbelt so we are still shooting to get first place.”

All hands on deck will be needed to help bring a conference championship to the Mountaineers this upcoming season, and people have made impressions throughout the summer.

“Evan Georges was our top middle distance miler through track last year,” Curcio said. “He’s shown some real talent, and he stayed in Boone this summer and picked up his mileage.”

Curcio also said on the women’s side to watch out for sophomore Elisa Sargent, junior Kerry Leonard and transfer Molly Pusateri.

“Elisa and Kerry are returners who are way ahead of where they were last year at this time,” Curcio said. “Molly comes from Ohio State with solid credentials in the middle distance events, but with a summer of training at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona, she has stepped right in and is in our top seven.”

Curcio and the cross country program want to make the next step with a message for his team.

“Second is nice but like Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s saying, we have to keep moving,” Curcio said.

The Mountaineers will have that opportunity at their first invitational Sept. 2 with the Covered Bridge Open in Boone at 5:30 p.m.

Story By: Adam Hothersall, Sports Reporter