Experience-Laden Squad Prepares for 2008 Campaign
Thursday, September 4, 2008
If there is no substitute for experience in collegiate athletics, then the Valparaiso men’s cross country team is in great shape heading into the 2008 season.  Coming off a 2007 campaign which saw the Crusaders place fifth in their first year in the Horizon League, Valpo returns 12 of its 15 runners from last year’s squad, including all seven runners who competed at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional last season.

A quintet of seniors which led the Crusaders through most of the 2007 season returns for their final season on the course.  Setting the pace is fifth-year senior Chris Honig.  Honig led Valpo in five of his six races last year, posting three top-ten finishes on the campaign, including a season-best fourth-place showing at the Crusader Invitational.  The Second Team All-Horizon League performer earned Athlete of the Week honors from the league after an eighth-place showing at the Evansville Invitational, and also succeeded in the classroom, receiving Academic All-League accolades.

Leandro Schultz is also back for his senior year in 2008.  Schultz paced the Crusader squad for the first time in his career at the Boston College Open in 2007, covering the 8K course in a season-best time of 26:01.  He was Valpo’s second-fastest runner in four of his other five races on the campaign, including at the Horizon League Championships, where he ran his way onto the All-Horizon League Second Team with a 14th-place showing.

For the second consecutive year, Jim Turchyn ran among the top-four Crusader runners in each of his six races on the season.  The senior’s most successful race of the 2007 campaign came at the Notre Dame Invitational, where he finished in the top half of the prestigious field and was the second-fastest Crusader runner.  Turchyn closed out the season as Valpo’s third finisher at both the Horizon League Championships and the NCAA Great Lakes Regional.

Closing out the quintet of seniors for the Crusaders are Rich Krupar and Jordan Stanfill.  Krupar placed for Valpo in four of his six races, including finishing fourth at the Horizon League Championships, and lowered his career-best 8K time to 26:49.50 at the Evansville Invitational.  Stanfill, for the second consecutive year, ran in Valpo’s top-five in five of his six races, including crossing the line fourth among Crusader runners at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional.  He also cut the fastest 8K time of his career down to 26:41.88 at Evansville.

Backing up the five seniors will be four juniors and four sophomores as well.  Junior David Carter took to the course six times as a sophomore for the Crusaders, and peaked at the end of the season, crossing the line fifth for Valpo at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, covering the 10K course in 35:28.13.

Fellow juniors Matt Cervarich and Chris Lechner each ran five times in 2007 for Valpo.  Both runners posted career-best 8K times at the Evansville Invitational, as Lechner covered the course in 27:48.14 and Cervarich 28:14.52, both of which were nearly a minute faster than their previous bests at the distance entering the season.  Also rejoining the Crusader team is junior Bryan Gill after not running last season.

Leading the four returning sophomores on the Valpo squad is Joel Hartenberger.  Hartenberger ran six times as a freshman and scored for the Crusaders on two occasions.  He finished third for Valpo at the Evansville Invitational, finishing in 27th position in the 132-runner field, and came home fifth for the Brown and Gold at the Horizon League Championships.

Chris Bednarczyk took to the course four times for Valpo as a freshman, while Justin Bui saw action in three races and Keith Button ran on one occasion.  All three of them will look to contribute more as sophomores this year.  Joel Mathwig joins the squad with sophomore eligibility in 2008, while eight freshmen will also be making their debuts for the Crusaders this year.

The schedule opens up at home for the 15th consecutive year, as the Crusaders take to the course at Sunset Hills Farm Park to host the annual Crusader Invitational on Friday, Sept. 5.  Two weeks later, on Friday, Sept. 19, the squad heads down to Bloomington to compete at the Indiana Intercollegiates.

Notre Dame is the next destination, as the Crusaders will run in the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday, Oct. 3.  The final tuneup for the league championship meet will be the NCAA Pre-Nationals, hosted this year by Indiana State, on Saturday, Oct. 18.

Valpo will venture outside of Indiana for the only time on the season for the Horizon League Championships, hosted by Green Bay, on Saturday, Nov. 1.  Two weeks later, the NCAA Great Lakes Regional will be held in West Lafayette, and the NCAA Cross Country Championships will be contested on Nov. 24 in Terre Haute.

Experience will be the name of the game for the 2008 men’s cross country squad.  The Crusaders have all their key runners from last year’s team returning, and with four races leading up to this year’s Horizon League Championships, should challenge for a top spot at the league’s premier event.