Women's Cross Country Found Trail Rockier Than They'd Hoped
For both the men's and women's cross country teams, 2010 was a season of promise and high expectation, but injuries and absences hampered efforts and kept the seasons from being all that Bear fans had hoped – even with a top three CIAA finish.
The Shaw men's cross country team finished third at this year's CIAA Cross Country Championships.
While the finish pleased most Bears fans, Shaw Head Coach William Montague had a slightly different perspective.
"Yes, we did have high expectations going in to this season. Did we live up to them? No, but a lot of people do not realize how competitive this conference is. It is only going to get stronger with the addition of Lincoln (PA) and Winston-Salem State," Montague said.
Freshman Darius Berry was the top finisher for the Bears, finishing fourth (the first runner not from Winston-Salem State to finish as they took the first three spots) and earned All-CIAA honors.
At the championshp, the men's team was buoyed by surprise performances from freshman Michael Caldwell and senior Tanaan Sibert. "We would not have been in the top three without them," Montague claimed.
Aside from the Bears third place finish and freshman Berry's surprising freshman season, Montague knows that he needs to hit the recruiting trail hard. "We will be rebuilding to an extent, but we are looking to get back in the hunt for next season." He also cites the return of Fred Lewis to the team next season as a positive for the men's team.
For the Lady Bears, the 2010 cross country season was poised to be a strong one, but the team – as in past years – was hit hard by injuries, especially the Lady Bears.
And for the Lady Bears, the running path gets no smoother next year.
The Lady Bears will be graduating five runners and will try to stay healthy for next season; a task that proved difficult this season.
For the women's cross country team, the CIAA championships did show glimpses of what the future holds. Five of the Lady Bears had personal bests at the championships – a nice time of year to peak and a bright sign for the future.
Montague said, "This is where I want the women's team to be going in to (NCAA) regionals next month."
It did not help the women's team that they lost their number three runner, Shareka Mitchell, for the second year in a row.
Going in to the CIAA championships he expected his team "to be as high as three, or low as sixth." The Lady Bears finished sixth.
The key, Montague said, that helped the women's team avoid a collapse was the performance of sophomore Moneaque Baker. "She really came out and help lifted the team through her performance," said Montague. "Her presence next season will definitely help."
Looking in to next month, the cross country teams will be going to Cary for the NCAA Regionals. Montague said, "We are in the toughest region in the NCAA, aside from out West, but we should run well despite the competition."
The team and the coach know that the summer is key to the success of the teams for the 2011-2012 season.
At the end of the CIAA Championships Montague told his team, "We have 365 days to remember these Championships. What will it take to win next season?" He believes the team understands and is ready to put in the work to make it to the top of the podium next year.
North Carolina State Student, interning with Shaw Sports Information