In 2005, a youthful Crusader men's cross country team got their feet wet at the collegiate level and picked up a second-straight sixth-place finish at the Mid-Continent Conference Championships. Now, with seven of their top nine runners from last year's conference meet back, Valpo is poised to make a move toward the top of the league in 2006.
Head Coach Mike Straubel returns for his 20th season at the helm, and brings with him a 21-runner deep squad that includes 14 returnees from a year ago, five experienced seniors and the top four Valpo finishers at the 2005 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Meet.
The leader of that experienced group is senior co-captain Adriano Schultz (Brecksville, Ohio/Brecksville-Broadview Heights), Valpo's top finisher at the Mid-Con Championships a season ago. Schultz, who ran for Valpo in 2003 but did not compete in 2004, surpassed his personal bests from his freshman campaign at each meet, running a career-best 8K of 27:08 at the Notre Dame Invite, the third fastest 8K run by a Crusader all season.
The fastest Valpo time from last season, however, came from a sophomore, Michael Brouch (Aurora, Ill./Marmion Academy) who returns for his junior year. Brouch finished the 8K Evansville Invitational in 26:50.25, placing 13th at the nine-team event. Brouch, who finished 39th at the Mid-Con Championships, knocked nearly two minutes off his career-best time as a freshman during the 2005 campaign, running six times for the Brown and Gold.
Sophomore Jim Turchyn (Batesville, Ind./Batesville), who ran the second fastest Valpo 8K of the year, 27:00 at the Crusader Invitational, and was the team's top finisher four times, is also back for 2006. Turchyn was the first Crusader to cross the tape at the Mid-Con meet and also led Valpo at the NCAA Regionals, finishing the 10K course in 35:33.8.
Also back for Valpo is sophomore Leandro Schultz (Brecksville, Ohio/Brecksville-Broadview Heights), the brother of Adriano who led the Crusaders at the Brissman-Lundeen Invitational in 27:08 and finished 24th at the Evansville Invitational. Fellow sophomore Bryan Gill (Columbia City, Ind./Columbia City) paced the Valpo charge at the Loyola (Chicago) Lakefront Invitational with a time of 29:43 and is also back in 2006.
There are also four other seniors, Jeff Johnson (Darien, Ill./Downers Grove South), Matt Kariger (Plymouth, Ind./Plymouth), Michael Landmeier (Saint Charles, Ill./East) and Phil Martin (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso), on the team looking to end their collegiate careers with a bang.
Kariger, Landmeier and Martin each ran a personal bests at the Brissman-Lundeen Invitational in 2005, and Johnson ran a sub-30 minute 8K in 2004.
The deep squad also brings back three juniors, led by co-captain Josh Parker (Roselle, Ill./Lake Park), who ran at the Mid-Con Championships and finished in 29:08.7. Parker set a career-best earlier in the season when he completed the 8K at the Notre Dame Invitational in 28:04.
Chris Martis (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Westlake) also set a personal best in 2005, finishing the Brissman-Lundeen Invitational in 28:59, as did classmate Jared Snell (Hampton, Iowa/Community) who was in his first year with the Crusaders in 2005.
Returning sophomores Rich Krupar III (Elyria, Ohio/Midview) and Jordan Stanfill (Goshen, Ind./Goshen) will add more than just depth to the Crusaders this season, especially Stanfill who ran in both the Mid-Con and NCAA Regional meets as a freshman.
Straubel's team figures also to benefit from the addition of seven runners, highlighted by Indiana transfer Chris Honig (Waupaca, Wis./Glenbard South, Ill.). Honig finished 21st at the prestigious Indiana Intercollegiates and raced at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional in 2005, finishing higher than any Valpo runner.
Honig's fellow newcomers are all freshmen, Michael Bley (Schererville, Ind./Andrean), David Carter (Arlington Heights, Ill./Hersey), Matt Cervarich (Deerfield, Ill./Deerfield), Chris Lechner (Darien, Ill./Hinsdale South), Tyler Nash (Cincinnati, Ohio/Anderson) and James Strasburg (Ann Arbor, Mich./Saline), each of whom will have a chance to contribute.
The 2006 schedule kicks off at Sunset Hills Farm, Valpo's home course, on Friday, September 8 for the Crusader Invitational. The women's 4K will open the season at 5:00 p.m. with the men's 6K to follow at 5:45 p.m. The Crusaders will also run at Notre Dame, Indiana State, Evansville and Loyola (Chicago) before the 2006 Mid-Continent Conference Championships in Kansas City, Mo. on October 28. The Valpo season wraps two weeks later when the Brown and Gold run with some of the nations best at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet in Bowling Green, Ohio.