University of Louisville track and field/cross country coach Dale Cowper said this has been an interesting cross country season. Not only because this is his first season as the head of the U of L running programs but because there are so many new faces.
"There's a process we start with cross country camp and I think coach Joe Walker and coach Taryn Sheehan have done a great job of growing these kids together," Cowper said. "The student-athletes have done a great job of buying into the system and listening to the coaches."
Both the men and the women have bought in and head to the American Athletic Conference Championships this weekend in Storrs, Conn.
"The men's side has really grown with the transfer of senior Stacey Eden from Kentucky has just done an outstanding job," Cowper said. "Mattias Wolter a senior came back late after participating in activities this summer with Canadian athletics, and now he has developed into a consistent number three to go along with redshirt junior Tyler Byrne and sophomore Ernest Kibet up front."
On the men's side, the Cardinals have a ton of youth but the biggest positive is there's a veteran leader – Byrne – to look at as a role model.
"Byrne is a consummate leader and gets along very well with his fellow teammates and the underclassman look to him for guidance," Cowper said.
Byrne, who was recently named AAC Runner of the Week, finished 18th in the Wisconsin adidas Invitational two weeks ago and is the favorite in the AAC event. Kibet should be right there with Byrne at the front of the pack.
U of L's women's team has had to adjust to a lot of newcomers.
"From last year's roster Michelle Molodynia is our top returner to go along with sophomore Kelsey Cramsey," Cowper said. "Freshmen Agnes Chepchumba, Benadate Cheruiyot, Adair Gennocro to go along with Emily Bushey who have all come on really strong as the season has progressed."
The women should challenge UConn for the AAC title.
"I think it's been a successful season for the men's side, being that they are in control and are the favorites heading into the conference tournament," Cowper said. "For the women's side, I think it's been a successful season, because we have seen them come together and grow and now they just have to go perform at the conference and regional tournament."
The AAC event is slated for 11 a.m. tomorrow.