Cross Country
2012 Clemson Cross Country Outlook
By: Clemson Sports Information  
Release:  08/16/2012
Building a championship caliber cross country program at Clemson has been a process.  Last year, the Clemson women enjoyed their finest fall season in nearly 20 years.  Now in year five under Director of Cross Country Lawrence Johnson, he and Associate Head Cross Country Coach Brad Herbster hope to see the men's program follow suit, while the women continue to climb within the ranks of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
It will be a formidable challenge for the Clemson women, who lost 2011 senior leaders Alyssa Kulik and Kim Ruck to graduation.
"Our freshmen and sophomores last year learned from Alyssa and Kim, but now they're going to have to step up and be productive," Johnson said.  "We're relatively young, probably as young as we've been in a while."
One student-athlete with the luxury of experience under her belt is junior Natalie Anthony, who was easily the most improved runner on the Tiger roster a year ago.  Anthony will help fill the void left behind by Kulik and Ruck. A native of Randolph, NJ, she was just two spots shy of earning all-region status last fall after helping the Tigers to a fourth-place team finish in Louisville, KY.  Anthony was also the team's No. 3 runner at the ACC Championships, finishing 32nd individually.
"Natalie made huge strides last fall and carried it over into track season," Herbster said.
Anthony will receive a boost this fall in the form of 2011 Furman graduate Erin Barker, who will have one year of eligibility with Clemson in cross country and track & field.  Barker actually finished six spots ahead of Anthony and was a member of the All-Southeast Regional Team last fall.  Barker was also an All-Southern Conference performer after finishing fourth for the Paladins.
Kate Borowicz returns for her senior season. She was strong in cross country last fall before an up-and-down track season.  Borowicz was 31st at the 2011 ACC Championships and 43rd at the Southeast Regionals, scoring in both important meets for the Tigers.
Cara Talty, a junior from Raritan, NJ, transferred into the program last fall and made an impact.  She scored in two meets, including the Southeast Regionals, where she was one spot behind Borowicz.
Elyse Borisko is a red-shirt junior who could be a wild card for the Tigers in 2012.  She was a consistent scoring threat for Clemson as a freshman in 2010, but had her share of ups and downs in 2011.  The Tigers would benefit greatly from more performances like the one she had at the ACC Championships, where she was 40th on Clemson's home course.
The remainder of the Clemson women's roster will be made up of promising, but unproven red-shirts and sophomores, as well as incoming freshmen.  Taylor Miller has drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff, while Easley High School product Emily Lewis will be among the newcomers with a chance to contribute as a first-year freshman.
"Emily was one of the quietest recruits you could ever hear of in the ACC," Herbster said.  "She ran 11 flat in the two-mile, which is good in this state at the high school level."
Other newcomers that have a chance to contribute are Lindsey Bellaran and Brianna Feerst, both of whom relocated to Clemson from the state of New Jersey.
The Tiger men's team will have a different look in 2012, largely due to the absence of All-ACC and all-region standout Ty McCormack.  He will red-shirt the fall season because he will be studying abroad in China as part of his language & international trade curriculum.  McCormack's loss will be significant, as he placed eighth at the ACC Championships last season and was coming off a solid outdoor track season in the steeplechase.
"On the men's side, guys have to invest themselves more into the program," Johnson said.
A good example of someone who has certainly upped his investment recently is red-shirt sophomore Aaron Ramirez, who improved by leaps and bounds during the outdoor track portion of the 2011-12 academic year.  Ramirez finished fourth in the 1500 meters at the ACC Outdoor Championships, and his coaches hope he can carry confidence over from that type of performance into more strenuous cross country races.
"Aaron was over-thinking the entire season in cross country," Herbster said.  "He was most nervous for the 10K at Southeast Regionals, but that turned out to be his best race because he finally relaxed and understood what he needed to do."
One of the team's top performers could very well be freshman Roland Hakes out of Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, SC. Herbster said he is one of the best in-state prospects to sign with the Clemson distance program in a long time.
Hakes won AAAA state championships in cross country as a junior and senior.  He ran a personal best of 15:09 on a difficult 5K course.  He was a multiple-time state champion in track & field as well.
"He works hard and is a strong competitor," Herbster said.  "He'll be a good leader for us, even though he's only a freshman."
With McCormack out, the onus to step up productivity may fall on red-shirt senior Martin Maloney and sophomore James Dwyer. Maloney scored at both the ACC Championships and Southeast Regionals last year.  Dwyer returns as a sophomore after scoring in several meets as a rookie.  Both will need to show improvement in their times for the Tigers to take the next step as a program.
Travis Christenberry and Stephen Lewandowski are a pair of freshmen who have a chance to contribute in Clemson's top seven, Herbster said.  Christenberry was bronze medalist in 2011 at Florida's AAAA state championship cross country meet. Lewandowski has run 4:08 in the mile, and was sixth in New Jersey's Meet of Champions 5K.
The two teams will face a tough schedule ahead in the fall of 2012.  Clemson opens the season on Aug. 31 at home, but will race against several tough teams out West at the Los Angeles Invitational in September and at the NCAA Pre-Nationals in October in Louisville, KY.  The ACC Championships will be held in Blacksburg, VA for the first time later in the month, while the Southeast Regionals will also have a new home in Charlotte, NC.
No matter who finds themselves contributing on a consistent basis, Clemson's young rosters must mature quickly against that type of a schedule.  
Herbster believes his groups are up to the challenge.
"People expect us to fall on the women's side because we lost Kulik and Ruck, but we can surprise this year.  On the men's side, we need to build the team up. Without Ty in the mix and with some coaching uncertainty at some ACC schools, it's a great opportunity for our younger guys to step up."

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