Ohio State head coach Robert Gary discusses the state of the men’s cross country program entering 2010
You are entering year 14 as the cross country coach at Ohio State. How much has changed within the program in that time?
“Just the overall expectations we set for ourselves. I think the biggest indicator is our program qualifying for nationals more routinely now as opposed to the first time OSU ever did, in my fourth season. Last year, we left NCAAs very disappointed finishing 21st, and to see how upset the team was leaving the course actually made me feel proud of where we have come in the distance program.”
How does the 2010 team compare to others you’ve had at Ohio State?
“Losing Jeff See, an NCAA All-American and Great Lakes champion and a guy we could always count on for a very-low stick was in a way a great luxury. However, it will also be a luxury to have him back as our volunteer assistant this fall! I think there were a few times last season when we would have a guy or two hit cruise control and Jeff would bail us out in the scoring. This year, there will be nowhere to hide and a lot more accountability. I think we should have a 20 second pack at the absolute most, and I believe the pack has the ability to be a Top 10 team at NCAAs this year. The best part of it all is that we don’t lose anybody after this season!”
With the graduation of Jeff See, who do you foresee stepping up and becoming the leader of the team?
“I don’t foresee there being a real front runner on team, but Taylor Williams was our number two consistently last year. Taylor has taken on a leadership role that we need to have on this team. The “pack” I keep talking about can either be together in their training, goal setting and effort, or they can be together in not doing these things! Taylor will be very helpful in making sure we keep our guys focused throughout both on and off the course.”
Julian Meyer and Donny Roys both enjoyed success as freshmen with the Buckeyes. What will they need to do to take their talents to the next level as sophomores?
“Last summer and early fall these two guys looked awesome. However, like most freshman, they fell apart by end of season. Both are having a really good summer training block and I expect them to be as interchangeable as the others inside our team pack. Donny ended up running around nine minutes in the steeple and Julian finished 12th at the U.S. junior cross country championships, just missing out on making the USA junior team.”
Looking at your returning runners, do you see anyone stepping up and making a big improvement from last season?
“For the fall, I won’t have anybody who isn’t at least a redshirt freshman running for us in some of our smaller meets. However, I will also focus creating a larger team than in previous years. We usually try to have around 12 regular runners, but we’re going to be running closer to 20 guys in our distance area this year. I expect our middle distance guys like Dan White, Chris Fallon, Daryl Murphy and Jared Hall to contribute more this fall as well.”
Are there any newcomers to the roster that you see contributing right away?
“Jake Hiltner, the third-ranked high school 800m runner for 2010 should be a contributor in our distance program from the get-go. Most of our other newcomers I am looking to develop for the future – they include some 15:45 freshmen 5k guys like Jackson Neff, Samuel Deskin, Nathan Moore and Phillip Dakhnovets, along with transfers Joseph Jackson and Chase Violet.”
Overall, what should fans expect out of the 2010 Buckeyes?
“Our goals are no different than they are every year. We expect to finish in the Top 3 at the Big Ten meet and qualify as a team for the NCAA championships. We also want to be one of the best cross country teams the school has ever had – to do that, we’ll we have to crack the Top 10 at nationals.”
The Buckeyes open the 2010 campaign Sept. 17 at the Appalachian State Mountaineer Open in Boone, N.C.