Rowan’s men’s cross country team has officially returned to action, hungry for a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship and looking to improve on their fourth-place, Metro Region finish from last season.
Going into the regional championship last season, the team was ranked fourth and hoped to improve with a finish in the top two or three, but failed to reach that goal. The Profs will be looking for better luck this year and some better health as well.
“We just hope to be healthier,” Head Coach Dustin Dimit said. “I think we would have been that last year but we had somebody sick that day and Justin [Kelly] was out the whole semester… if we can stay healthy, we should be able to be a top two team in the region and the goal is to try and win the regional title but if not be a close second and try to get back to nationals as a team.”
The team kicked off their season with the Salisbury Fall Classic, held at Salisbury University, with a second-place overall finish. The team had some top performers, none better than senior Justin Kelly who finished first overall for the second straight year, propelling the team to their second-place finish.
“It’s a nice start for me and the team,” Kelly said. “It was good to get a win, just the same as I did last year but at the same time, it’s just an opener so not anything too major… I think we’re in a good spot but definitely have a lot of room to grow.”
Kelly’s performance was good enough to earn him NJAC Cross Country Runner of the Week honors, joining five other Profs honored by the conference, which is something the team appreciates and expects but does not yearn for.
“It shows that our school is the best in the conference,” Coach Dimit said. “Our guys don’t really pay much attention to that, they try to pass it around… we won’t always get it but that’s okay because we’re focused on where we want to be for all-conference, all-region, all-American, and those kinds of things.”
With a new season starting, the team has seen some changes made in their roster and will be looking for some underclassmen and newcomers to step up in a big way.
“We lost our top two guys from regionals,” Coach Dimit said. “We get Justin [Kelly] back who would have been our top guy and Ben Woodward is a transfer who could have been our top guy if he was here last year too… we have a bunch of young guys who took big steps in track and we’re hoping they’ll fill some of the depth roles.”
After coming into the season ranked third in the preseason rankings, the team jumped one spot after their second-place finish at Salisbury. They will return to action again this Friday, Sept. 16, at the Navy Invitational held in Annapolis, Maryland where they hope to continue their hot start.
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