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Aug. 11 - BETHANY, W.Va. – With a women’s team coming off their best finish at last year’s PAC Championships in three years and a new coach who recruited a strong class of men’s runners, the Bethany College cross country teams are looking to make strides in 2010.

Leading the Bethany teams this fall will be first-year head coach Brandon Spalding, a three-time First Team All-ODAC competitor in cross country and a 2006 NCAA Championship qualifier during his career at Bridgewater. He joined the staff last January and worked with the distance runners during the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, helping the BC women finish third at the 2010 PAC Outdoor Championships.

Spalding’s first cross country season will feature a women’s team which, behind a pair of All-PAC runners at last year’s championship meet, finished fourth, their top showing since back-to-back fourth place finishes in 2005 and 2006. One of those runners is back this year in sophomore Erin Reske (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern), who placed 14th to earn Second Team All-PAC in cross country and she also was third in the 10,000 during the spring track championships for Honorable Mention All-PAC.

The rest of the Bison women’s team will feature two returning runners from last year’s team, a pair of track runners joining the cross country team for the first time and two newcomers. The returners from last year including seniors Emily Roth (Bexley, Ohio) and Desiree Finley (Nanticoke, Pa./Hanover Area), who just missed All-PAC accolades in 2007 when she finished 15th at the conference meet.

Joining the cross country program for the first time are juniors Joanna Mongelluzzo (Washington, Pa./Trinity) and Kaitlyn Black (Pittsburgh, Pa./Chartiers Valley), who were both on the soccer team last fall but enjoyed solid track seasons. Black was a sprinter in the spring who was Second Team All-PAC in the 4x100 and 4x400 relays and Honorable Mention in the 400, while Mongelluzzo placed fifth in the 800.

The two newcomers are sophomore Melissa Davis (Lancaster,Ohio), who transferred to Bethany from West Virginia and will also compete on the swimming team in the winter, and freshman Chelsei White (Elkins, W.Va.). Spalding feels it’s a roster with a chance to grow that will use this year to build momentum for the future.

“The women had a fourth place finish last year at PAC’s and we would like to improve on that,” said Spalding. “Our top runner will be Erin, who was All-PAC in cross country and continued to improve to earn All-PAC in the 10,000 last spring. There is a lot of potential in the rest of the roster, so we want to continually improve, shoot for a top three finish at PACs and build on that for the future.”

The men’s team will take a big step just by having six runners on the roster, which would give them enough to field a full team for the first time since 2007 and just the second time in the last five years. Sophomore Josh Wentz (Phillipi, W.Va./Philip Barbour) is the lone returning member from last year’s squad, while junior Joe Douglas (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park) joins the cross country team for the first time after two years on the football and track teams.

“Josh is our only returning runner from last year and Joe is coming out for the first time,” said Spalding. “They both made huge improvements in the spring, Josh in the 5K and Joe in middle distance, and we expect the same this fall.”

The rest of the men’s team will be four freshmen that make up Spalding’s first recruiting class. That group is highlighted by Cory Yarrington (Berkeley Springs, W.Va.), who was on the West Virginia AA Outdoor Track & Field State Championship 4x800 relay team and also picked up All-State accolades in the 1,600 and 3,200 last spring. The other freshmen coming to Bethany for their first collegiate cross country season are Hunter Ankrom (Moundsville, W.Va./John Marshall), Jacob Arbaugh (Staunton, Va./Riverheads) and Brandon Miller (Canonsburg, Pa./Chartiers-Houston).

“We have a good class of freshmen coming in this year,” said Spalding. “Cory had a very good high school career that was capped with one state title and two more all-state honors in track last spring. We also like the potential Hunter, Jacob and Brandon have and see them developing into solid collegiate runners.

“Much like the women’s team, this year will be about building a foundation for the future,” said Spalding. “As they get adjusted to a new coach with new ideas, we want to work hard every day in practice, make strides this year and take that momentum to build the program heading into the future.”