Working From Behind: Cross country excels despite disadvantages

AUSTIN MILLER | CO-SPORTS EDITOR

The Butler University men’s and women’s cross-country teams are preparing for their third season of competition in the Big East Conference and are once again taking aim at the top teams in the country.

With four of the last five NCAA champions coming from the Big East, the Bulldogs find themselves competing with the most successful programs in the country on a regular basis.

“I think what people in the public don’t realize is that our program isn’t on a level-playing field with the Villanova (University)’s and Georgetown (University)’s of the world,” head coach Matt Roe said. “So if we’re even able to hold our own competing at their level, we’re punching above our weight, so to speak.”

Even at that disadvantage, the Bulldogs were able to make their mark on the national stage last year, when then-junior Erik Peterson advanced to the NCAA National meet and earned All-American honors after placing 22nd. Peterson returns as a senior this season, which is a major advantage for the program.

“Having a guy like Erik is big for the culture of our program and as a leader,” Roe said. “He’s a guy that has proven that you can come to Butler with the right attitude and hunger and find national success, which is something we need.

Along with Peterson, the men’s team returns six of their top seven runners from last season’s team that finished fourth at the Big East Championships and eighth at the NCAA Regionals. Several of those runners were freshmen last season who Roe expects to make an impact this year.

“Bobby Johnson and Matt Lumbar are two guys that I think will be big contributors for us this season,” Roe said. “They’re prepared to take that next step.”

On the women’s side, the Bulldogs return five of the seven runners who competed at the NCAA Regionals last year, a meet in which they finished ninth as a team. Junior Colleen Weatherford came up just short of a bid to nationals last season.

The Bulldogs entered the season ranked No. 11 in the country last year, but quickly fell out of the rankings after injuries took their toll. This time around they will begin the year far from the national spotlight, which Roe believes will help the team.

“I think last year we overcompensated a bit for the injuries we had and it cost us. This year I don’t think the team will have as tough of expectations, which I think will benefit us.”

Although they may be at some competitive disadvantages compared to bigger programs, the Bulldogs know what it takes for them to compete and accomplish their goals.

“Our goals are always to maximize our resources and do what we can,” Roe said. “We have to find ways to outwork and be smarter than the bigger schools, because we will almost always be at a talent disadvantage.”

Both the men and women open the season Sept. 5 with the Butler Opener, hosted at Northview Christian Church in Carmel.

*

Top