Courtesy: UNCWSports.com The women's cross country team surveys the course at the CAA Championships
WILMINGTON, North Carolina – Untimely injuries and illnesses impacted the 2013 cross country season at UNCW, but the Seahawk harriers overcame those obstacles and concluded the campaign with solid finishes at the NCAA Southeast Regionals.
While the men had consistent performances throughout the season, the women started off on a slow note before finishing the campaign well.
The men wound up third out of five teams at the Colonial Athletic Association Championships, and the women came in seventh place.
“The largest hurdle we had to overcome was the ups and downs of the women this year,” assistant cross country/track and field coach Layne Schwier said. “The season began with a few injuries and we started a little behind where we could have been. Our time trials in August showed us that we had a lot of work to do.
“We had a pretty good season, considering the uncertainty at the beginning. We beat the College of Charleston in the NCAA Regionals, which was a personal goal for us after narrowly missing out on catching them in two other meets. That was a superb performance by our women.”
Senior Ashley Wybersky of Manassas, Va., has been the women’s prime performer for the past two years, placing first on the squad in the final four races last year and five of the seven races this season. She bounced back from a few mid-season setbacks to post an excellent showing in the NCAA Regionals in Earlysville, Va.
With Wybersky working her way back, senior Haley Kapheim stepped up and rallied the team in the Mason Invitational and CAA meet.
Schwier said: “It was really great to see that confidence emerge from Haley. She took the reins and became a consistent frontrunner for us. Haley ended the season strongly and we couldn’t be more pleased with her initiative and leadership. But even though Ashley had some complications, she has been an excellent number one for us since last season, and pulled through to have a fantastic performance in the NCAA Regional.”
The men, meanwhile, faced their own challenges as the season progressed. Junior Mike Parsons suffered an injury before the conference race and was unable to finish the season. Sophomore Tom Schotzinger experienced a similar ailment and missed the final few races.
“If we had more depth on the roster we would have been able to plug gaps in our lineup on both sides,” said Schwier. “We could only line up six men at the CAA and Regional Championships, and when it takes five runners to score, there isn’t a very big margin for error. Thankfully, the six who did run performed solidly and we finished up well with those key races.”
Senior John Riemer came to the Seahawks from Monkton, Md., and led the team in 13 of 14 races over the past two years. Riemer has been a key runner for the Seahawks and excelled in the classroom as well.
“John has been our consistent frontrunner for two years,” explained Schwier. “The men maintained a solid top-5, even when one or two of the runners had an off day. In all the races, with the exception of the CAA meeet, John crossed first, and has been a cornerstone for the men’s team. He capped the season off strong by coming back at the NCAA Regional and leading for the final time.
“John is a great example of how a person can put in the immense effort to get where they want to go. He was an unrecruited walk-on to our program. For four years, he put in monumental work every day to break through and become an extremely reliable leader for us.”
Schwier also praised senior Dylan Skinner, who will be a key contributor on the track team in the spring.
“Dylan has been a rock for us in the fall, but he really shines on the track, where he will be the top returning 800M runner in the CAA. He is also looking to be the fourth Seahawk in the past three years to dip under the 1:50 barrier. He and John are models of hard work, both at practice and in the classroom.”
The men and women pushed through the obstacles and wrapped up the season with satisfaction, closing out 2013 on a positive note.
“We had a lot of fun travelling into the mountains and running during the fall in these different places. Our student-athletes have done a good job, and I know they are proud of each other and the season, but we have to take what was learned this year to be better prepared for our next chance.
“The team closeness is at an all-time high. The overall commitment level really amped up as the season went on, and the teams came together. Everyone knew they needed to work hard to pick up where the front of the season lagged, and all of them came together and did what they needed to do to be able to finish the season proud of their work.
“If the returning runners can remain as motivated and committed as they are right now, there is no reason we won’t be accomplishing a lot more in 2014.”