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Men's XC Preview: Brecher, Dilts lead deep group of runners

Doug Brecher '10 (center, No. 68) and Devin Dilts '11 (far left, No. 73) lead a talented and deep Bates roster in 2009. (Photo by Tom Leonard '78)

LEWISTON, Maine -- If the 2009 Bates College men's cross country team fares as 15th-year head coach Al Fereshetian hopes, last year's top five times for the team in a given meet will match up with the Bobcats' top seven or even 10 times in meets this season.

Given what Fereshetian has returning, it's not at all improbable. Five of Bates' top seven runners last year were rookies on the team, and an impressive first-year class should have some members trying to squeeze into the top seven as well.

Leading the way for Bates are the team's co-captains, senior Doug Brecher (Waban, Mass.) and junior Devin Dilts (Roscoe, Ill.), the top two performers a year ago. Dilts was a sophomore transfer competing in cross country for the first time, and managed to be selected both All-State and All-Region. Brecher also earned his first All-State award.

"Both those guys will set a very consistent and strong point of leadership for the team," said Fereshetian.

Junior Tom Esponnette (Auburn, Maine) came on strong during track season last year, ultimately qualifying provisionally for the NCAA Championships in the outdoor mile. Fereshetian expects his improvement to continue to show in cross country.

Troy Calandra (San Francisco, Calif.), Sean Colligan (Goffstown, N.H.), Peter Corcoran (Stillwater, Minn.) and Ben Chebot (Newton, Mass.) were immediate top-seven contributors as freshmen a year ago, and continued improvement is expected from them as well.

Two other veterans are returning to the team after missing last season while studying abroad, in seniors Griffin Stabler (Keene, N.H.) and Conor Welch (Newburyport, Mass.), who excelled in the steeplechase during the 2009 outdoor season.

Added to an already crowded group of runners are nine first-years, several of whom could well make the kind of impact last year's freshman class did. Fereshetian noted with enthusiasm what he has seen from Andrew Wortham (Newton, Mass.), Ken Whitney (West Hartford, Conn.), James LePage (Cumberland, Maine) and Ryan Rice (Franklin, Mass.).

"One of our stated goals from last season right on through track was that we really desire to have five or even guys where we had three last year," said Fereshetian, "and if we can generate that type of progress, we'll take a huge step back to being one of the top teams in the region and conference. Not only can Devin and Doug compete for places in the NCAA Championships, but if we support them the way we can, we have a shot at competing at nationals as a team."