Women's cross country looks to reload, while the men rebuild after key losses

Members of the CMU cross country team start the MAC championship meet Saturday at Riverwood golf course.

Last season ended with Head Coach Matt Kaczor calling the Mid-American Conference Championship meet a “stepping stone” for Central Michigan men’s and women’s cross country teams.

This year, the women's team looks to chase a possible MAC Championship — the first since 2000 — after its third-place finish last season. Meanwhile, the men's team must fill the hole left by the loss of its top runners from last year.

Important losses

The men’s team enters 2016 without graduated Nate Ghena and Silas DeKalita. Ghena (First Team All-MAC) finished fifth at the MAC Championship last season. DeKalita (Second Team All-MAC) finished 14th. Kaczor called Ghena a “top 10” all-time CMU runner last season.

The women’s team also have a hole to fill in the loss of Alyssa Dyer. She finished 18th at the MAC Championship and was the fourth CMU runner across the finish line.

Key returners

Luckily, both the men’s and women’s teams are returning a promising core who, based on last season, are ready to fill the shoes of the departed runners.

The women return all but one of its runners, Dyer, who placed for them at the MAC Championship, where the team finished third behind Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green.

Among those returners is junior Kirsten Olling. Olling led the Chippewas in every race last year. She finished the season with First Team All-MAC honors by placing seventh at the MAC Championship.

Other key returners include senior Kelly Schubert and sophomores Samantha Allmacher and Megan O’Neill. Schubert finished in 11th at the MAC Championship while O’Neill came in 15th and Allmacher took 22nd.

The men will look to junior Joseph Emmanuel and sophomores Luke Anderson and Mark Beckmann to replace Ghena and DeKalita.

Anderson finished 23rd at the MAC Championship followed by Emmanuel in 27th and Beckmann in 34th.

Also returning for the men are seniors Spencer Nousain and Casey Voisin.

Crucial Races:

The Roy Griak Invitational, Sept. 24, offers a chance early in the season for CMU to see how it stacks up against stronger competition than what they'll see at the MAC Championship in November. Schools like Michigan State, Minnesota and Colorado State will be in attendance. Last season, the women placed 14th and the men finished in 18th.

The Pre-National Meet, Oct. 15, is a warm up to the MAC Championship and a preview of how CMU might finish if they qualify for the NCAA National Championship meet in November.

The MAC Championships on Oct. 29 in Kent, Ohio is the culmination of the season. The women will be competing against a full field of 12 MAC teams, while the men will only be competing against eight teams — Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Ohio and Toledo.

The first race for the Chippewas will be the Jeff Drenth Memorial 5K, the only home meet for both teams, on Sept. 2 at Pleasant Hills Golf Course.