Sept. 4, 2008
PENSACOLA, Fla. - The UWF Men's Cross Country program enters the 2008 season with two Seniors and 13 Freshman and Sophomores; however, the young squad still received a pre-season ranking of 9th best in the South Region. First year Head Coach John Bergen thinks his squad might surprise some people this season. "Even though we are young, we have a several sophomores who have great promise to perform well this season, and some incoming freshman who may be ready to race competitively earlier than normal," explained Bergen.
The Argos will begin the season this Friday in Orlando, Florida, with a test to find out what they are capable of. While the squad has lost five of the top eight runners from last year, some solid newcomers could fill the spots, while the returning runners all have great potential for improvement. "Coach Dobson (last year's coach) had signed three solid recruits for this upcoming year before he resigned," stated Bergen, "so we have a solid group to work with, and some impressive walk-ons."
The team will test themselves this Friday against regional foe Rollins College, and two division I squads, including Central Florida and South Florida, in the seven team event. However, the race is being threatened by tropical storm Hanna. The meet is on unless the storm elevates to a hurricane and effects the central florida region.
Senior Justin Gates (Fort Walton Beach) is expected to be a solid top of the pack runner for West Florida this year, and will be challenged by Sophomores Andrew Maedel (Orange Park), Scott Lydick (North Fort Myers), Sean Jansen (Lutz), and Jared Black (Tallahassee). Bergen liked what he saw of Maedel, Lydick, and Jansen during the first week of pre-season. "Andrew, Scott, and Sean look ready to step up to the next level, coming off some solid summer running, and Jared Black showed some great potential late last year, and I expect him to be in that pack that leads the team by the end of the season."
Gates is the top returning runner from last year, while Maedel finished the season strong with an impressive run at the South Regional Championships, while Black turned in a 27:59 at the conference meet, and Jansen also turned in a solid run at the conference championships. Meanwhile, Senior Patrick McHugh (Pensacola) has trained hard and hopes to contribute to the Argos success during his final season. McHugh red-shirted last year, and has battled through some injuries, and Bergen likes his competitiveness. "Patrick may not have the raw talent and physiological capacity as many of the other runners, but he knows how to get everything out of himself when it counts."
A talented freshman group includes red-shirt Nick Farrington, who has last year's training to build on for this year. Before Bergen arrived as coach, the freshman class included Tyler Maier (Ridge Manor), Steven Landreth (Port Harcourt, Nigeria), and Tyler Bowman (Pensacola). Bergen also stated that the Argos were able to pull in a couple other solid freshman during the later part of the summer. "We have two additional Freshman, Chris Hough (Panama City), and Austin Warner (Dyer, Indiana), who very likely will step in and compete right away. Those two may give us the depth in the top seven to surprise some teams ahead of us in the rankings," explained Bergen.
Three other walk-on freshman have also impressed Bergen in the pre-season training. P.J. Orgass (Spring Hill, Fla.), Alex Mason (Spring Hill, Fla.), and Eddie Pagan (Stuart, Fla.) each earned a spot on the squad by virtue of a 10k performance at the opening practice of the season. "Orgass and Mason are speed athletes, who had some great times at shorter distance, but they proved right away that they could step up to the longer distances," stated Bergen. Meanwhile, Pagan has surpassed early expectations, which leaves the team with 15 competitive runners to ride into the 2008 season.
The Argos will host the Gulf Coast Stampede on September 20th, which will be there only home meet of the season. The event is an 8k race for the men, beginning at 8:00 AM at the Escambia County Equestrian center. The course was the 2006 Division II national championship course, and the event also showcases several area high schools and middle schools in races following the men's event. Prior to the Gulf Coast Stampede, the Argos will test themselves at Central Florida this Friday, and at South Alabama on September 13th.