FRANKLIN – There is a sense of optimism surrounding the Franklin men's and women's cross country teams heading into the 2017 campaign, as both teams returns plenty of familiar faces from a year ago. For first year head coach Brandon Dworak, having an experienced team not only gives him confidence in the group, but has also set the bar high for both teams heading into the fall.
"The transition to the program has been great," Dworak said. "I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on where the kids are at coming into the year and everyone has had a good summer. Even though it is my first year, I feel like there are going to be some raised expectations for this group. We want to improve on everything that we did last year and give the program some stability."
Dworak inherits a men's team that closed out last season on a high note, with four returners setting career-best marks in the 8K in their final race. Among those was last year's Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) Freshman of the Year and top returner in Clayton Brumfield, who
Juniors Heath Deugan and J.T. Sargent, along with sophomore Adam Rector also closed out last fall with personal best times and will add valuable depth behind Brumfield, giving their new head coach a battle-tested lineup in 2017.
"Clayton is going to be our workhorse and we're expecting him to up his game," Dworak added. "We were a young team last year and that gave our runners the chance to get some experience and have that coming into this year. As a first-year coach, it's helpful having a team full of sophomores and juniors and we expect some positive results from it."
The FC women will feature a nice balance of youth and experience as they aim to improve on last year's eighth place finish at the conference meet. Seniors Rachel Bowden, Casey Tranter and Alexis Weidner are all back for one more year and are joined by three other returners from a year ago.
With a clean slate for everyone on the team, Dworak notes that he expects the Franklin women to impress early and often in 2017, with hard work being the key factor up and down the lineup.
"Overall our women's team is a bit smaller but the kids that are coming back and the freshmen are all locked in to getting better," Dworak continued. "Health is going to be key for that team to improve on last year because we've got some nice balance coming into the year. We expect to turn some heads as long as we can stay healthy."
Opening day for both teams comes on Saturday, Sept. 2, when the Grizzlies host the Sodexo Invitational in nearby Shelbyville, Ind. The event is set to begin at 10:00 a.m.