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Ohio State cross country teams look for running start

Ohio State’s men’s and women’s cross country seasons begin on the same day at the same meet, but the teams are reaching for very different goals.

OSU men’s cross country will attempt to build on last season’s success – an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships – while the women’s team will test its young talent against the region’s more experienced teams.

The men’s team ended last season by finishing 23rd at the National Championships, their best placement since 2009. With the start of a new season, the team also has a new leader.

After a yearlong coaching break, Brice Allen coaches the men’s squad. Allen arrived at OSU after seven years as distance coach at the University of Louisville and, prior to that, two years as an assistant with Northern Arizona.

Senior Donny Roys, the Buckeyes’ top finisher at last year’s NCAA Championship meet, said he is looking forward to working with his new coach and seeing how OSU adjusts to Allen’s philosophies.

Those philosophies include looking to progress his runner’s limits, Allen said.

“To improve, we will be working to build a strong aerobic base by doing a series of hard six- to eight-mile runs to improve our running threshold,” Allen said.

Roys said this year’s squad can make a return to nationals but will need to trust Allen.

“I definitely think we have the capability of being able to make it back to nationals this year,” Roys said. “It is going to take a lot of us entrusting and having a lot of faith in him and then working together through what he wants us to do in our own goals in order to get there.”

Allen said he’s ready for the season to begin.

“We have a young squad and we are looking forward to start the season with a strong opening meet,” he said.

On the women’s side, the team completed the 2011 season with a 6th place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet and had two returning runners, senior Tori Brink and sophomore Nicole Hinton, qualify for the NCAA championships.

Brink and Hinton return for the 2012 season, but like the men’s team, the rest of the squad is young.

“I looked at my roster the other day saw that I have one senior, two juniors returning, and the rest are all sophomores and freshmen,” said OSU women’s track and field coach Karen Dennis.

Perhaps the biggest test facing the women’s team is putting the squad against established opposition, but Dennis said she remains hopeful for her young group.

“Our greatest challenge is getting young people to adapt to the Division I and Big Ten talent,” Dennis said. “These girls came in with good credentials and I expect them to come out with positive results.”

The teams will travel to meets at Dayton, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Wisconsin before the Big Ten Championships on Nov. 28. Both open the 2012 seasons Sept. 1 at University of Dayton’s 5k Flyer Challenge.

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