Three of the Valparaiso men’s cross country team’s top five runners from a season ago highlight a solid group of returnees, while a contingent of four newcomers joins the squad as well as the Crusaders prepare to open the 2011 cross country season.
Leading the way for the Crusaders’ men’s squad into 2011 are seniors Nick Fagan and Jordan Piaskowy. Fagan placed among Valpo’s top five in all six races last season, including a 12th-place effort at the season-opening Crusader Open. He also posted a season-best 8K time of 26:54 at the Notre Dame Invitational, ranking second among the Valpo contingent.
Piaskowy also contributed to the Valpo team score in all six races as a junior, including a pair of meets in which he was the second-fastest Valpo runner. Piaskowy placed 11th overall in the Crusader Open, and ran a season-best 8K time of 26:34.36 at the Evansville Invitational. Mack Morris rounds out the trio of Crusaders with senior eligibility, returning for his final season after competing in all six races in 2010. Morris ran a 6K time of 21:30.55 at the Crusader Open, finishing 22nd overall and among Valpo’s top-five runners, and also was one of seven runners who represented the Crusaders at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional.
Five runners with junior eligibility are ready to hit the trails for the Crusaders in 2011, led by Wally Bradford. Bradford ran in the last four meets for Valpo in 2010, placing among its top-five runners all four times out. His best performance came at the Horizon League Championships, where he covered the 8K course in 27:18.81 and led the Crusaders’ contingent. Redshirt junior Caleb Schmal also ran in four races last year, placing among Valpo’s top-five at the Michigan State Invitational with a season-best 8K time of 28:46.
Juniors Joe Johnson and Nathan Bluhm ran in five and four races, respectively, for the Crusaders in 2010 and will look to show continued improvement this year. Both ran their season-best 8K times last season at the Evansville Invitational, with Johnson covering the course in 28:41.36 and Bluhm in 28:55.34. Meanwhile, Derek Schnake returns to the squad this year after not competing in 2010.
Two sophomores are back for their second season of competition for Valpo in 2011 as well. Kiefer Heiman competed in five meets as a freshman for the Crusaders, running a season-best 8K time of 27:54.47 at Evansville and serving as one of Valpo’s seven runners at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. Fellow sophomore Matthew Przybyla saw action at two meets as a rookie. The aforementioned returnees are joined by a group of four freshmen: Kevin Adamik, Eric Hickok, Trace Ostergren and David Rutkowski.
The 2011 schedule consists of four races leading into the Horizon League Championships. The Crusader Open will be contested for the 23rd time in 2011, and for the 18th straight year it will serve as Valpo’s season-opening meet. Action at Sunset Hills Farm on Friday begins at 5 p.m. with the women’s race, set for five kilometers, while the men’s 6K will follow at 5:45 p.m.
Two weeks later, Valpo will travel outside of Indiana for the only time in the regular season, heading to the United States Naval Academy to compete in the Navy Invitational on Sept. 17. On Sept. 30, a brief jaunt to the east is in the cards as the Crusaders will run at the Notre Dame Invitational, while Valpo’s final tuneup comes on Oct. 15 as it travels downstate to cover the course at the Evansville Invitational.
With four races under their belts, the Crusaders will aim to be peaking for the 2011 Horizon League Championships, hosted this year by Cleveland State University and scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 29. The NCAA Great Lakes Regional is slated to be run Saturday, Nov. 12 in Toledo, Ohio.