HCC cross country squad expected to achieve on field, in classroom

September 23, 1992|By Tom Worgo | Tom Worgo,Contributing Writer

Running up and down hills and --ing through woods is routine for members of the Howard Community College men's cross country team. Outstanding academic achievement is also the norm.

Last year, HCC's team grade-point average at 3.15 ranked ninth in the country among 112 schools. The Express were also the top academic achiever in Region XX, which covers Maryland and parts of Pennsylvania.

This season, HCC cross country coach Steve Musselman expects the squad to eclipse last season's honors in the classroom and on the field.

"This year we should do better," Musselman said. "Some of the new guys coming in are honor students. HCC places a high priority on academic performance in addition to athletic performance. The college takes extra steps, such as study halls for the athletes, and the team itself takes great pride in high academic achievement."

When the athletes are not studying, they concentrate on the team goals -- reaching the National Junior College Athletic Association Nationals in Canandaigua, N.Y., in November for the second consecutive year and placing among the top three colleges in a 16-team district. The district is composed of teams from Maryland, New Jersey and New York.

The goals may be lofty ones for a 3-year-old program, but last year's results give the team optimism for this season. HCC finished fifth among 32 schools at last year's nationals in Wichita, Kan., and placed sixth in the district.

"I think they are better than last year's team," Musselman said. "I have more experienced runners coming into the program. I have an experienced group coming back and the guys are coming in from some quality high school programs in the county. I think we can hit the top three in the district."

The Express showed at the Howard Invitational -- a meet featuring 10 junior colleges and Division III four-year schools last Saturday -- that their goals might be realistic.

HCC, host of the meet, captured third place with 98 points, finishing behind winner Montgomery-Rockville (51 points) and Salisbury State (74 points).

The results mark a significant improvement over the squad's fifth-place finish out of seven clubs at the Knight Invitational in Gaithersburg the previous week.

Sophomore Eric Smith (Chesapeake-AA) garnered top HCC honors, finishing ninth (31 minutes, 26 seconds) out of 61 runners for the 5.3-mile course.

Other top Express finishers included Centennial grad Andrew Younkin (11th place, 31:51), Joe Rankin (18th, 32:07), Kevin Vale 32:57) and Dave Strats (33rd, 33:15).

"The results were better than I expected," Musselman said. "The team is starting to believe they can run with the big boys in the region.

"Everyone improved their times and ran more aggressively. It's part of the plan to race better each week. We are running better as a team. We can be competitive against the four-year schools. It gives the guys confidence."

Returning sophomores include Smith, a third-team all-region performer last season, Younkin, Strats (Atholton) and Vale (Howard).

Rankin, a member of Glenelg's state cross county championship team last fall, heads the freshman class. Joining Rankin are Ken Maceaney (Mount St. Joseph) and Ben Younkin (Centennial), Andrew's brother.

"We don't have an overly large team, but we are very competitive," Musselman said.

Although HCC doesn't have a women's team, two runners compete as individuals, sophomore Pia Lunderman (Hammond) and Erin Lane, who moved to Howard County two years ago.

HCC would like to start a women's program next fall, Musselman said.

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