Men's Cross Country Season Preview
CLAREMORE, Okla.- The Rogers State men’s cross country team will open the 2012 season in Edmond, Okla. on Saturday as the Hillcats travel to the University of Central Oklahoma for the first meet of the season.
The Hillcats have a strong group of individuals back in the fold as they start the 2012 season. RSU finished fifth at the Sooner Athletic Conference meet in 2011 but are looking to improve on that this season.
“We want to be better that we have ever been and I don’t think that will be a problem” Head Coach Chris McCormick said. “I would like to send some of our guys to nationals as well as two or three all-conference runners. We want to finish in the top three in the SAC. The conference is tough. We have two top-five teams in the SAC but I would like to be able to compete with them and finish in the top three.”
McCormick will look to veteran runner Brandon Payne to lead the team. Payne, a junior from Henryetta, Okla., returns for his junior campaign with the Hillcats following a sophomore season in which he ran a personal best of 15:30 in the 5k and 26:52 in the 8k. At the conference meet he led the Hillcats with a 27:01.90 time in the 8k event, placing 25th
“Our unquestionable leader is Brandon Payne,” McCormick said. “He has been here since the beginning of the program and he was voted the captain unanimously by his teammates. He had a strong off-season and he is coming in really fit so I expect him to step up and lead the team both outside practice and in the race.”
Coach McCormick sees junior Oscar Reyes as his most improved runner. The junior from Oklahoma City made big strides during the 2011 season, improving his 5k time to 16:21 as a sophomore. He also posted times of 27:12 in the 8k and 34:20 in a 10k race. The Hillcats had several freshmen on the squad last season. With a year of college running experience, McCormick hopes to see them make major contributions to the team.
“Oscar Reyes had a great off-season and coming in off the summer he is the most fit,” McCormick said. “I had several freshmen last year that all have a year of experience under their belts and I think they will each make huge improvements.
Three newcomers will look to make an impact on the team immediately. Logan Blackburn was a two-time state runner-up in the mile and state runner-up in the two mile as a senior. Tanner Brantley comes to RSU from Beggs High School where he was a state medalist in cross country and in the 3200m track competition. Brantley holds the 3200m Beggs school record. Garrett Dyson rounds out the freshman trio. The Owasso, Okla. native was named Most Valuable Runner. His personal best 5k time is 16:59.
“We have three quality newcomers,” McCormick said. “Logan Blackburn had a lot of success in high school and I can tell he had a great summer. He is running with our top returners in practice right now and I think he will really step up and make immediate contributions. I’m hoping for big things from Tanner and Garrett as well.”
“Our schedule is a good mix of high profile meet where our kids will run against the best in the nation at all levels, which is great for my guys,” McCormick said. “Then we have some smaller more low key meets where our kids should be able to compete for medals. Our end goal is the conference meet and we are training through all the meets leading to the final most important meet.”
The Hillcats will compete for the SAC title and bid to the National meet on November 3rd.