Aug. 29, 2017
Columbus, Ohio – The month of September signals the beginning of the season for most cross country teams across America. Ohio State’s distance crew is eager to get the season started under the leadership of Khadevis Robinson, who was named the head cross country coach over the men’s and women’s programs in July.
“I’m pretty excited to get going,” Robinson mentioned. “We have to build a culture. Sometimes you have to take a few steps back to take a couple forward, and that’s the hard part. We have to understand that we might have to take baby steps in the beginning to reach our big goal in the end.”
Robinson will have a deep, talented roster to work with on the women’s side in 2017. Returning six of their top seven runners from a year ago, and adding a couple of Division I transfers, the women’s team will look to take that next step and join the elite ranks of the Big Ten.
Jessica Passwater, a junior that will most definitely play a part of the success in 2017, mentioned that this team is hungry for national recognition.
“We’re definitely shooting for nationals and being a top 20 team,” Passwater noted. “We’ve worked hard for this.”
Joining Passwater on the upperclassmen heavy roster are the likes of Sarah Kanney, Emily Stoodley, Christine Frederick and Lilly Saniel-Banrey. Kanney and Stoodley were the top two Buckeye finishers at the 2016 Big Ten Championships with 13th and 15th-place showings at the conference meet helping Ohio State to a fifth-place showing as a team. Lainey Studebaker and Abby Nichols are back for their sophomore seasons after contributing heavily as freshmen.
In addition to the returnees, the Buckeyes added well-rounded Division I transfers Vanessa Robinson (Cincinnati) and Julia Rizk (UCLA). Team depth is huge in cross country. Known as a sport that is truly team oriented, the goal is to have everybody run at the same level for a large majority of races.
“Cross country is one of those sports where you are only as strong as your weakest link,” Robinson mentioned. “Looking ahead, we expect to do well. It all comes down to performing well on that day. If we continue to build as a team, not only on race day, but during the week at practice, we have a chance of accomplishing some big goals.”
The men’s team has a slew of seniors on the roster that want to go out with a bang. Evan Stifel, Jake Mandel, Clayton Bowie, Kevin Blank and Mitch Leitch are the majority of that group and they have been putting in some work.
“It’s been our collective goal to become competitive,” Leitch said. “We want to compete with the best in the Big Ten. We’re looking forward to it. Just to see what everyone’s been up to.
“I’m just trying to show off the work I’ve put in this summer (higher mileage weeks). I expect to run really well.”
Stifel’s junior year was nothing short of exceptional. Regarded as the ‘low stick’ or MVP for the Buckeyes, Stifel was the top Buckeye finisher at each race he competed at in 2016. He placed seventh at the Big Ten Championships with an 8k readout of 24:51.8 to earn First Team All-Big Ten honors becoming the first Buckeye to achieve that since Jeff See (2009). He closed out his season with a career best 10k time of 30:29.8 on his way to being named to the Great Lakes All-Region team.
Ohio State will get the season started at the Indiana Opener this Saturday (Sept. 2) in Bloomington, Ind. Following the season opener, the Buckeyes will have three meets before the postseason schedule gets going in late October.
Both men’s and women’s team will head south to the Commodore Classic (Sept. 16) in Nashville, Tenn., and follow that up with a trip to South Bend, Ind., for the Joe Piane Invite at Notre Dame. The final regular season meet on the schedule is Pre Nationals which will be held in Louisville, Ky., on Oct. 14.
The Scarlet and Gray will make the return trip to Bloomington for the Big Ten Championships on Oct. 29. The season opening meet will allow Ohio State to scope the championship conference course.
Following the conference meet, the Buckeyes will run at the NCAA Great Lakes Regionals (Nov. 10) in Terre Haute, Ind., with hopes of qualifying for the NCAA Championships (Nov. 18) in Louisville.