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Runners start off at Lou Onesty

A young cross-country team embarks on their season tomorrow at the University's Lou Onesty Invitational at Darden Towne Park.

Regional rivals William & Mary and James Madison are expected to field strong teams in the Cavaliers' only home meet this season.

Aside from two third years on the women's team, and one fifth year and three third years on the men's team, the team is comprised of first and second years.

On the men's side, top runners third-year Bob Thiele, fifth-year Damond Cromer and second-year transfer Justin Wood will not be competing. Instead, they will be continuing their training for other meets later in the season.

"A mistake you can make in cross-country is to train people too early and have [them] run well in September when it doesn't count," asst. coach Buz Male said.

Among the women, third-year Jennifer Owens, a member of the 1998 NCAA All Southeast Conference team, will not be running.

The Invitational will be a showcase of young talent, an opportunity for the coaches to assess the performance and progress of the strong recruiting classes of the past two years. With the absence of the top runners, the younger team members will be given a chance to shine and possibly win a spot among the Cavs' top seven runners.

"I know those three [Thiele, Cromer and Wood] can do it ... the rest of the spots are up for grabs," Male said.

Many first-year runners said they are excited by the prospect of making an instant impact and the challenge presented by the first meet.

"This next meet coming up, I'm hoping to get in the top five," first-year Sam Jackson said. "We are sitting out our best three guys, but I think we still have a chance to win even with just me and a few other guys leading it."

Although the future looks bright, Male is cautious about setting the goals too high this early in the season.

"We're young, so if we avoid injuries, we're smart and [the first and second years] come around, I'm very optimistic about the year," he said.

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