By Brodee Gillam
As hard as it is to seek improvement after national success, the goal for the LCC men's and women's cross country teams is just that; developing already proven talent in the 2016 season.
Last season, the LCC women won the NJCAA Division 1 championship, while the men placed 14th out of the 39-team national championship race in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
In the past 19 seasons, the LCC men have won the regional championship every year and the women have won 17 regional titles.
LCC Cross Country Head Coach Jim Robinson said both of his teams have a chance to be among the elite teams in the nation by the end of the season.
"Obviously winning the women's or men's national championship is pretty hard, but I'm pretty optimistic," Robinson said. "We've never had a men's and women's team get on the podium – be top three – in the same year. I think that is a pretty reasonable goal, it's not an outrageous goal."
Robinson, who has been on the coaching staff for 10 years at LCC, has only been a defending national champion once; with the men's team in 2007 when he served as an assistant. He said he does realize the challenge, and so do his lady harriers.
"It's always difficult to repeat," Robinson said. "I've never been in the position of coaching where (our women are) trying to repeat as national champions. But I've been around the sport long enough that I know it's difficult." Robinson said. "They are really focused and positive about what they are doing, and they have a lot of talent."
Leading the women's team is sophomore Kaitlyn Beyer, who won the regional and finished 10th in the national meet last year. Three other sophomores – Casey Hadaway, Alex Love and Madison Slater – will also provide experience and depth.
Robinson said the men's team also has great potential this season.
"On the guy's side, we have a host of talent coming in and some really good runners coming back," Robinson said. "I think our strength is going to be depth … and our goal is to get our whole team under 20 minutes."
Top returnees for the men's team, according to Robinson, are last year's top two runners: Dylan Rocha and Carson Alexander. Also expected to make a strong impact is sophomore Ben Cady.
Men's freshman runner Alex Ross said he is also optimistic.
"My main focus for the men's team is to win nationals this year and hopefully go back to back next year," Ross said. "My personal goal is get top 20 at nationals this season."
The second meet of the season, the Spartan Invitational on Sept. 16 at Michigan State University, will include NCAA Division 1 through NJCAA teams. It will show a lot about the Stars and their conference competition, Robinson said.
"We'll have a whole range, with MSU being one of the best teams in the country at the NCAA Division 1 level, but there will be our major competitors among our league at that meet," Robinson said.
The men's and women's teams are scheduled to travel to Olivet College for the Olivet Invitational, the first meet for both, on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m.
Host Olivet, Albion College and Adrian College, among others, will be at the invitational.