BRIDGEWATER, Va. – Both Bridgewater College cross country teams find themselves regionally ranked in the South/Southeast Region to begin the 2018 season. The men are ranked fifth while the women are picked tenth.
The women, selcted third in the ODAC preseason poll, finished fourth at last year's ODAC Championship and 11th at the NCAA South/Southeast Region Championships. The men, picked second in the ODAC preseason poll, finished second at the 2017 ODAC Championships and sixth at the NCAA South/Southeast Region Championship.
"The team came back ready work," said Eagles director of cross country Brian Flynn. "I'm happy with where everyone is at, attitudes are good. I think everyone is ready to get going."
The women's side welcomes back five returners who not only saw success in cross country, but in the spring during track and field.
"Calista Ariel is coming off a conference championship in the steeple chase. She's been running really well and had a good summer of training. She's a junior now so expectations are a little bit higher."
"Three or four freshman could make an impact…After our top three, there are a lot of people that could step up."
The men will be led by 2017 ODAC Champion senior Jamie Hiegel.
"Super high expectations for him. He was in a position to be All-American through about 75 percent of NCAA's last year and fell off the last 2K or so of the race."
While Hiegel looks to defend his conference title, Flynn is hopeful the rest of men's side can overcome some preseason injuries.
"The potential for the guy's side is high, but time will tell to see where they progress and how they overcome those injuries."
The team will open up the season on August 31 at home with the Eagle Cross Country Challenge. Flynn thinks opening the season at home will help ease his athletes into competition.
"It's nice to have a home meet. We don't have to travel. It'll help highlight some of what we have on campus which is exciting…It's a low-key meet for us, more of a checkpoint for some of our underclassmen."
Flynn expects the ODAC to be very competitive again this year, but is confident in his team's ability to be a contender at the top.
"I think our girls will be much better than last year, a lot deeper than last year…Our goal is to crack that top two or three in the conference because after that second place team, it's super open on the women's side. If both of our teams finish in the top three this year that would be a good year, and anything outside of that would be an exceptional year for both programs."
Following the Eagle Cross Country Challenge, both teams will travel up Route 81 to Shenandoah University for the Hornet Harrier Invitational. A few weeks later they will make the trip to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the UW-Oshkosh AAE Invitational before another trip to Shenandoah for the ODAC Championship meet. To view the entire schedule, click here.