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Men's XC Preview: Dilts' return gives No. 19 Bobcats a boost

Devin Dilts has returned to compete for Bates men's cross country in his final year of eligibility. (File photo by Tom Leonard '78)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Devin Dilts' passion for cross country at Bates is such that he elected to use his final year of eligibility and postpone his graduation by a semester in order to compete for the Bobcats in the 2011 season.

Of the many reasons this might be a big year for the team, Dilts' presence might be No. 1. It's surely a big reason for Bates' No. 19 preseason ranking in the Division III USTFCCCA national poll. Bates is also ranked third among D3 New England teams, behind only Williams and Middlebury.

The Bobcats come off a year in which they were disappointed not to receive an at-large bid to compete in the NCAA Championship as a team. Dilts was the team's lone individual qualifier for the meet, capping his finest season in a stellar career. A three-time NESCAC All-Academic selection, Dilts earned NESCAC First Team All-Conference honors in 2010, finishing sixth at the conference championships. He was ninth at the NCAA New England Regional Championships, earning his second All-New England laurels, and also made the All-State team at the State of Maine Championship in October.

Dilts had three fellow teammates earn All-New England honors at NCAA Regionals, and they're all returning as well. Sophomores Noah Graboys (Wilmette, Ill.) and Tully Hannan (West Hartford, Conn.) had outstanding rookie seasons and were equally impressive in the succeeding track seasons. Junior Andrew Wortham (Newton, Mass.), who was an impressive 21st at Regionals, is also back, giving Bates a fearsome lead foursome.

There's lots more talent beyond them, including Dilts' fellow captains, senior Sean Colligan (Goffstown, N.H.) and junior Eric Kimball (Manchester, Mass.). Juniors Ken Whitney (West Hartford, Conn.), James LePage (Cumberland, Maine), Graham Pearsall (Guilford, Maine), Jamie Epstein (Falmouth, Maine) and Myles Black-Ingersoll (Concord, N.H.) give Bates a wealth of proven talent entering their primes, a key element in the quest for a conference championship or an NCAA bid.

The Bobcats kick off the season with a recent tradition: a class relays meet against Colby, beginning at 10:30 a.m. at Bates' Pineland Farms home course in New Gloucester.