Cross Country Preview

Story By: Tomas Kassahun, Copy Editor

“Unknown” is the word head coach Gary Bluth uses to describe the upcoming cross country season. And it’s not without good reason he calls it unknown.  Much of the runners that led the Rams to a strong performance last season are no longer with the team. The men’s team features nine freshmen while the women’s team has just three sophmores returning.

Despite the uncertainty, coach Bluth says it should be an exciting season. “There is a lot of potential among our freshmen,” said Bluth.

Last season both the men’s and women’s teams finished fourth in Northern California. To repeat the task will be a tall order.

“We could be better but that’s hard to say because we’re so young,” said Bluth. ”We usually have many sophmores. Everything is new now. This is just the beginning.”

Adding to the challenge is the number of classes that have been reduced. The team has been split into two groups so they can pick which time best fits their schedule. One group trains at 7 a.m., while the other trains at 2 p.m.

“It’s a disadvantage, but we do what we have to,” said Bluth.

Coach Bluth is counting on the sophomores to lead the way. On the women’s side Erica Marquez is expected to be one of the early leaders.

“On the men’s side, it could be any one of the guys. In four weeks, we can have four different guys be number one,” said Bluth.

The men will be without Germay Tesfai, who will be a redshirt this year. Last season Tesfai led the way for the Rams with a sixth place finish at the Northern California Championships.

Tesfai says it will be hard to watch his teammates compete without him, but he will be there to motivate each teammate and cheer them on.

“I try to be a good role model and show them how hard I am working at practice even though I will not be competing,” said Tesfai.

Tesfai is also looking forward to seeing what his teammates are capable of accomplishing. “The team has a lot of potential and the future of the team will be great,” said Tesfai.

Matt Klundt is another runner that has high hopes for the team. “I think we have a great chance to place well in the NorCal meet and make it to the State meet as long as we stay healthy and help each other out,” said Klundt.

Having just returned from the Airforce, the challenge will be even more unique for Klundt. His last competitive season was track in the spring of 2005.

Still Klundt feels that he is ready to step in as a leader. “In a way, I feel that I am a leader. I’m a little older than some of the other team members and I have lots of racing experience, in and out of college,” said Klundt, who has his eyes set on running under 22 minutes at Woodward Park.

Sophomore Jenny Saklar also looks to improve her time from the previous season and contribute to her team’s success.

“I have improved loads from last year and this makes me really excited to begin my second season. My pace is about where I finished at the end of last season, maybe even a bit faster,” said Saklar. ”My fitness, strength and flexibility are up a lot too. Thankfully, my form is more solid now, which makes it easier to run harder.”

Saklar attributes much of her success to the sprinting she did on the track last spring. This season, Saklar plans to have fun with her teammates and also hopes to knock a minute or more from her 5K time.

“It has been challenging to stay focused and get in enough base mileage this off season, but I’ve done enough to be in good position to do well this year plus the general strength and stretching work I did clearly has helped my form,” said Saklar.