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Men's Cross Country Preview: Bobcats to rely on depth, talent

Doug Brecher '10 earned All-New England honors last year. (Photo by Tom Leonard '78)

The Bates College men’s cross country team graduated a talented senior class, including NCAA Championship competitor Matt Dunlap, Harrison Little, Tim McCall, Andrew Percy and William Viti. Although much of the team’s experience has graduated with the seniors, the team still shows promise for the season in its depth and talent, according to head coach Al Fereshetian.

The Bobcats open the 2008 season with a dual meet against Colby this Saturday at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.

“This year’s team will be very young, so we will have to be patient with their results. Despite being young however there is a lot of talent that can be developed and our focus will be on that development,” Fereshetian said.

Bates essentially returns only two of its top seven runners from 2007. Yet Fereshetian expects valuable leadership out of senior co-captains C.J. Murray and Mike Watson, who are returning after bouts of injury and illness last season. Senior Patrick Foster is expected to contribute to the team this year if he can build on the great improvement he has made in two years. Fereshetian also anticipates strong results out of Dillon Tung ’09 and Doug Brecher ’10.

“Doug Brecher should develop into on of the premier cross country runners in New England. He will be a threat to claim top spots at the state and NESCAC championships, and if he stays healthy he should have a chance to qualify individually for NCAAs,” Fereshetian said.

Last year, Brecher finished 35th at the NCAA Division III New England Regional Championship with a time of 25:36.2 to earn All-New England honors. Dunlap led the Bobcats in the race, placing 15th and advancing to NCAAs, where he placed 105th out of 280 runners. Little, Percy and Tung also contributed to the team’s 10th-place finish in New Englands, the team’s first top-10 regional finish since 2004.

“I was really pleased with the progress the team showed all the way through the season, particularly with how the team peaked at the most important time,” said Fereshetian. “Thirteen of the 14 athletes that competed in their last championship of the season produced a seasonal best performance and the one that did not was largely related to an injury experienced during the race,” Fereshetian said.

If the Bobcats challenge themselves physically and mentally and gain confidence throughout the season, Fereshetian anticipates the team will improve significantly and be a strong competitor in the State of Maine Championships, NESCACs, ECACs and NCAA Regionals. On Nov. 1, Bates will host the NESCAC Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships at Pineland Farms.

“I really want to see a lot of personal and individual development. We have a lot of talent on the team but not a lot of experience, so we are going to have to work very hard and be willing to challenge ourselves, keeping an open mind at what can be accomplished,” Fereshetian said. “There will be a lot of opportunity for younger runners to contribute significantly.”

The team opened the season with its 38th annual Alumni Meet on Saturday, where the young team had the chance to run with experienced veterans of the program (such as Olympic Nordic skier Justin Freeman ’98, who took first place.)

In addition to the leadership of the captains and upperclassmen, Fereshetian predicts great performances to come out of the freshman class. The team also has picked up sophomore Devin Dilts of Roscoe, Ill., a transfer student. Dilts led the varsity side at the Alumni Meet, finishing third overall behind Freeman and Dunlap.

“All the first-years will have a chance to play a significant role in what we get accomplished throughout the season,” Fereshetian said. “I really believe this group will be able to develop into a group that is capable of challenging the best programs in New England as they mature together.”