Aug. 19, 2004
Last season, the Buckeyes began the season with the arduous task of trying to top its 2002 campaign that was highlighted by a trip to the 2002 NCAA Championships. The Buckeyes followed that up with another strong season under the direction of head coach Robert Gary as they qualified for the NCAA championships for the third time in four years.
This season the Buckeyes are aiming for their fourth trip since 2000. However, if the Buckeyes expect to qualify for the NCAA championships they will need some help from their incoming freshman to fill the void left by senior co-captains Rob Myers and Sjaan Gerth.
“I think the big question mark this year will be how our three state champion freshmen perform and whether or not they can come in and do well,” Gary said. “We also need last year’s freshman class to come in and not be freshmen again. If those two things happen I think we will definitely finish higher than we did last year at the NCAA meet.”
With the addition of three freshmen coupled with the squads’ six returning letterwinners, three of which finished in the Top 35 at the 2003 Big Ten Championships, the Buckeyes face the potential of finishing within the Top 3 teams at the 2004 Big Ten Championships and could push for a return trip to the NCAA championships.
“I think this is going to be one of the toughest years for us to make it to nationals because we have so many young people on the team,” Gary said. “I feel that if we can make it to the NCAA meet, then we should be able to place well. I think it has started to become a goal of the men’s cross country program to always place in the Top 3 at the conference meet and to always qualify for the national meet.”
Scouting the Men’s Schedule
The Ohio State men’s cross country team once again features a tough schedule, that will test the Buckeyes against some of the top teams in the country.
“We want to be sure that we are competing in the best meets in the country,” Gary said. The men open the season in Charlottesville, Va. to compete in the 2004 Virginia Invitational. After a week off, the Buckeyes will compete in at least one race for the next three weeks. The Buckeyes begin the three week racing span at the 2004 Great American Cross Country Festival, where the Buckeyes finished third a year ago while competing against some of the top ranked teams in the country.
Following the Great American Cross Country Festival, the Buckeyes will compete in the All-Ohio Invitational, where the squad finished fifth last season, while resting most of their upperclassmen. The men receive their final tune-up before the Big Ten championships at Pre-Nationals where the Buckeyes finished third in 2003.
“I thought last year the Pre-National meet was a real eye-opener for a lot of guys on the team because it showed them that they could compete with some of the best teams in the country,” Gary said. “For the most part our season comes down to the Great American meet, Pre-Nationals, Big Ten’s and the NCAA meet, however, there won’t be one race that we line up for that we don’t take very seriously.”
Who To Watch on the Men’s Side
The loss of former co-captains Sjaan Gerth and Rob Myers certainly will make it tough on the Buckeyes, however Gary feels confident that the 2004 edition of the Ohio State men’s cross country team will be able to reload like several of his teams have done in the past.
This season, Gary will look to junior Brian Olinger who Gary believes has the ability to challenge for one of the top spots in the Big Ten and has the potential to finish in the Top 15 at the NCAA championships.
“Brian Olinger has really done a great job in changing the way he runs,” Gary said. “I expect him to step up this season and become one of our top runners at both the conference level and at the national level.”
Olinger enters the season winning the 5,000-meter run at the 2004 Big Ten Track and Field Championships. Olinger also finished the 2004 track season by qualifying for the 2004 Mideast Regional as he competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
The Buckeyes also return Aaron Fisher and Dan Glaz. This past track season, Fisher, boasted the best time in the country in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, while Glaz returns to the team after posting a 12th finish at the 2003 Big Ten Cross Country Championships.
Gary also feels confident that freshmen Braden Martinez, Matt Buzek and John Ealy are all capable of making an immediate impact at the start of the season.