LYNDON CENTER, Vt. — For five of the past six seasons, the Lyndon men's cross country team has dominated the North Atlantic Conference, winning five of its last six titles. Bolstered by the return of several experienced and talented upperclassmen, the Hornets appeared to be poised for a run at yet another NAC crown.
"We've had the good fortune to have a few true front runners in our program over the past few years," said Lyndon Head Coach and six-time NAC Coach of the Year winner Chris Ummer. "For where I stand I feel we are ahead of where we were last season. Despite the a couple key losses, I believe we are a similar team compared to last year. Everything is going to depend on staying healthy."
Gone from the Hornet lineup are Kyle Powers, the NAC Male Runner of the Year in 2013, who completed his four years of eligibility, and Aaron Bellomo, the 2013 NAC Rookie Runner of the Year who chose to transfer from Lyndon. Such losses would devastate most programs, but fortunately for the Hornets depth and an influx new talent have never been an issue.
"Tyler (Scheibenpflug) is a quality runner. He placed 23rd at the NCAA Qualifying Meet and earned a berth at the NCAA Championships," said Ummer. "Our top four runners – Tyler, Kenedi (Hall), Josh (Hopmans) and Tim (LaRoche) are at their best level of fitness ever at this point in the season. We realize that the conference will be clearly more contested this year. Colby-Sawyer will be tough, so we need to be prepared."
Scheibenpflug, a First-Team All-NAC selection a year ago, and Hall, a three-time All-NAC selection and the 2010 NAC Rookie of the Year, lead a pack of runners that also includes Juniors Ryan Gannon, Benjamin Lewis, Trevor Updike and Dylan Robichaud as well as sophomores Aayan Cole and Devin Low. Freshmen Zachary Morrill, Benjamin Park and Domenick Tassone will round out the Lyndon roster.
"Tyler and Kenedi provide us with a good 1-2 punch, but for the rest of the order we're not sure," said Ummer. "Josh and Tim have their fitness level where it needs to be, but we're going to need someone to step up and be that solid fifth runner. There's a big gap between our fourth and fifth runner and we need someone to step up and decrease that gap."
On the women's side, the Hornets remain in rebuilding mode with only six women in the program. Leading the way are seniors Haley Joslyn and Ainsley Nettell, two experienced collegiate runners who be counted on lead the team and its four underclassmen.
"There are no big names in the women's program," said Ummer. "But Ainsley and Haley are two good leaders and teammates. Elizabeth (Start) and Brittany (Lafreniere) have experience at the high school level but Rose (Wilson) and Sierra (Hargrave) are two new faces in cross country. The transition to a competitive environment will be tough, but it will be helpful in terms of building character.
"We have no front runners and it will be difficult improving on our performance in conference from a year ago," he continued. "But our goal is to maintain what we accomplished in 2013 and see where we can go from there. The preseason poll has us picked last and I'll be the first to tell you that's not us."