NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University men’s cross country team will look to continue its dominance in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference in 2018. The Cadets have claimed the last three GNAC Championships and 10 overall since joining the conference and both squads have swept the last two GNAC championship races.
Norwich will have to find success under a new leader in 2018 as Seth Jackson takes over the reins of the men’s and women’s programs with the departure of former head coach Nick Cooper. However, a new head coach isn’t lessening the team’s expectations in the slightest.
The Cadets return 19 harriers from last season’s championship squad after losing only senior captain Connor LaFontaine to graduation. Senior captain Brody Hale (Naugatuck, Conn.) will aim to defend his individual GNAC title and Runner of the Year honors from 2017, while fellow senior Korey Leonard (Pembroke, Mass.) (eighth overall) aims for another high finish. 2017 GNAC Rookie of the Year Trenton Shimata (Colorado Springs, Colo.) returns to “The Hill” for his sophomore season as well as juniors Adam Saucier (Massena, N.Y.) (second place at GNAC’s), Jack McNally (Nokesville, Va.) (fourth place) and Ryan English (Frederick, Md.) (fifth place).
Simply put, the Cadets are in prime position to complete the four-peat in 2018. Norwich’s peers believe it as well as the Cadets were picked to finish first in the GNAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, nabbing all 11 first-place votes and collecting 121 total points.
“Senior Brody Hale has a very realistic chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships,” Jackson said. “Fellow senior Korey Leonard and junior Adam Saucier should also have high aspirations.”
Jackson has retained the services of assistant coach Mike Cooper, who returns for his third season with the team. “Coach Cooper will play a huge role in our success this season,” Jackson said. “Mike has a great rapport with our team, and has invaluable knowledge as a physical therapist and former college runner that make him a critical part of our coaching staff.”
“I think the team really believes we will always race well at GNACs,” Jackson said. “Coach Mike (Cooper) and I are committed to a progression throughout the season that has everyone running their best for championship races. We’re going to make sure the physical and mental preparation is geared towards winning the conference meet for Norwich.”
When asked about other goals for the season Jackson stated, “Progression is always the goal,” he said. “I believe the men can work their way into the program’s first top-10 finish at the NCAA New England Regional Championship in November.”
The team isn’t just made up of returners as three newcomers join the squad including Zack Bergeron (Blackstone, Mass.) “Zack had a very strong senior year at Blackstone Valley in Massachusetts. We fully expect that Zack can develop into a consistent scorer during his Norwich career,” Jackson added.
Norwich opens the season at the Plattsburgh State Invitational on Saturday, September 1st at noon. The 2018 GNAC Championship race is slated for Saturday, October 27th at 2:00 p.m. at host Saint Joseph’s College (Maine).