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August 28 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany cross country teams will enter the season with a new coach in Matt Abel, but a women’s team will have a lot of familiar faces, which they hope leads to a successful season.

Abel takes over the Bison after serving as an assistant coach at nearby Wheeling Park High School. During his tenure, the Patriots won six OVAC Cross Country titles (four boys, two girls) and a pair of West Virginia Boys’ Class AAA state crowns. This came after a strong running career at Division II Wheeling Jesuit, where he earned All-WVIAC accolades four times on the trails and qualified for the 2003 NCAA National Championship Meet.

So far through the early training sessions, Abel says the team is making strides as everyone gets to know each other.

“Training has been going well,” said Abel. “Overall, the team is healthy and establishing a consistent routine. I'm still getting to know everyone as athletes, but from what I've seen, this group is willing to listen and work hard. Both of those are key ingredients to improving, which is the ultimate goal.”

The Bison women’s team returns several contributors from last year’s squad that placed fifth at PAC Championships. The top returner is senior Maggie McCort (Fort Ashby, W.Va./Frankfort), who scored Second Team All-PAC honors at the championship meet by finishing 13th overall.

Other veterans back for another season is senior Alissa Moss (Meadow Lands, Pa./Chartiers-Houston), who placed 26th at the PAC race last year, senior Jodi Bodo (Steubenville, Ohio/Steubenville Catholic Central), who used a solid cross country season to set the stage for her to break four outdoor track school records and qualify for ECAC Championships in multiple events, and junior Emily Roth (Bexley, Ohio).

Also back is junior Desiree Finley (Nanticoke, Pa./Hanover Area), who sat out last year but she was BC’s top runner in 2007, narrowly missing out on All-PAC laurels by taking 15th at league championships. Blending in a pair of talented freshmen in Emily Andrews and Erin Reske will help make BC a deeper team.

“On paper, the women's team is one of the most talented in recent memory,” said Abel. “We’ll be led by seniors Maggie, who was All-PAC last year, Jodi, Desiree and Alissa. We expect the two freshmen Erin and Emily to make an immediate and substantial impact. And Emily adds to our depth.”

The men’s team was thin on numbers last year and may be that way again this year. Two runners are back from last season in senior Patrick Miller (Canonsburg, Pa./Chartiers-Houston), who has been with the program all four years, and sophomore Rich Violet (McMechen, W.Va./John Marshall) and they are joined by sophomore Pasha Utt and freshman Josh Wentz.

“At this time, the men are not fielding a full scoring team,” said Abel. “Led by our one senior Patrick, we will be looking for them to improve consistently from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”

Due to the numbers, each team’s goals are different headed into the season, but they still have one main challenge they want to meet and that is to be in top shape heading into the PAC Championship Meet, scheduled for Oct. 31 at Saint Vincent.

“The men's team's most important goal is to show steady improvement,” said Abel. “If we can become more and more competitive as the year progresses, it will go a long way to help with recruiting and building a foundation for the future of the program.

“The women have their sights set on a top 3 finish at the PAC meet and an improvement on last year's 5th place finish,” said Abel. “If everyone stays healthy and continues to improve, this team could surprise some people.”

Bethany’s season gets underway Sept. 5 at the Westminster Invitational.