FRANKLIN, Ind. – With a pair of deep and experienced rosters for both the men's and women's teams, the Franklin cross country teams look to take another step forward in 2018 under second-year head coach Brandon Dworak.
Franklin returns all but one major contributor on both teams in 2018. With a bevy of veterans and strong freshmen classes on campus for both teams, it gives the Grizzlies' young head coach plenty of experienced runners to turn to as he gets set for his sophomore campaign as distance coach.
"The first year is always tough for a new coach but overall," Dworak noted. "Our kids made it easy for me and I was proud of the gains we made last year throughout the cross country season and the track and field season. We've got a great advantage with all the runners we have coming back for both teams. Hopefully our runners on both teams can make another jump this year."
Both teams welcome back one all-conference performer from a year ago. On the women's side, that honor went to sophomore Krista Robinson, who racked up an eighth-place finish at the conference meet last fall, earning all-conference honors and the HCAC Freshman of the Year.
Joining Robinson on the roster this year are a strong group of upper-classmen in seniors Kelsey Bowling, Laura Worthington and Meghan Yencer as well as juniors Jayla Callens and Lacey Siderewicz. But the bulk of the team is still young with sophomores Grace Esterline, Madeleine Correll, Morgan Clarke and Emily Walker joined by freshmen Taylor Wooten and Morgan Timmons.
"We get our top runner back in Krista and that's a great place to start," Dworak said "Once the season starts, we will have a better idea of how the rest of the lineup will take shape. Our biggest advantage is that our top runners are all young and have their best years in front of them. Combine what we have coming back with a group of freshmen we're really excited about and we feel good with where are women's team is at."
The men's team is expected to be led by two-time all-conference runner and former HCAC Freshman of the Year Clayton Brumfield. The Greenfield, Ind.-native turned in another strong campaign as a sophomore, leading the Grizzlies in all six races and finishing eighth at the conference meet last November.
Behind him is a deep roster with plenty of runners looking to earn their spot in the top-five permanently. J.T. Sargent and Levi Spaniolo return as the team's two lone seniors. Juniors Brumfield, Blaine Conners, Alex Creamer, Sean Groves, Dillon Hankins and Adam Rector are joined by sophomores Logan Vandermark and Chris Graham to make up the rest of the returning runners. Joining that group are freshmen Jordan Johnson, Matthew Lee, Andrew Montgomery and Alex Simon.
"We're lucky to return everyone for the men and I'm excited to see what everyone can do with an increased workload," Dworak added. "Clayton has upped his mileage and we think he can find his way into the top-five in the conference. We have a lot of other kids we're really excited about because of the strides they made during the track season and throughout the summer. We've got some freshmen that are going to push our veterans and help determine where we finish each week."
For both teams, the 2018 season is not only a chance to keep growing as a program, but make a little noise when the HCAC Championships and Great Lakes Regional meets roll around in November.
The Grizzlies open the season on Saturday (Sept. 1) morning, when they host the Sodexo Grizzly Invitational at Blue River Park in Shelbyville, Ind. Start time for the first race is set for 10:00 a.m.