PAINESVILLE, Ohio - With no conference meet to look forward to, Lake Erie College cross country coach Bryan Harmon has his troops geared up for Friday's All-Ohio Intercollegiate Championships to be held in Delaware, Ohio.
"If you don't get up for it, you get embarrassed. It's that
simple," Harmon said. "It's bragging rights for the state of
The meet brings in 44 collegiate cross country teams from around the state, regardless of NCAA/NAIA classification.
"It's really unique when you line up in Box 32 and in Box 31 are Miami University's women and in Box 33 is an NAIA school," Harmon said. "Everybody runs at the same time and they score it as one big meet."
The race is the feature cross country event for Ohio colleges to see how they stack up against some of the big-time schools in the state. For the runners, it's also an opportunity to run against former high school teammates that run for other schools across the state.
"My best friend runs for Ohio State so I get to see how good she actually is," said sophomore runner Allison Wright (Columbus, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson). "I've been talking to her and she's been talking trash, but it's still fun."
With that in mind, the teams will have the opportunity to size each other up for one day, despite the differences in the sizes of the schools and programs.
"It's pretty exciting because everyone in Ohio is at this meet and you get to see where you stack up against all the other runners in Ohio," said junior Kyle Griffith (Painesville, Ohio/Harvey).
The Storm and the other 43 teams at the meet will be competing on a challenging course at the Theological Methodist School and Delaware Golf Club that features some difficult terrain.
"This course really shows what kind of hill training and strength training you've done over the summer," Griffith said.
Griffith and Wright relish the opportunity to set new standards in the cross country program at Lake Erie as Harmon looks to turn a young, talented roster into a high-caliber, veteran roster in a couple years.
"As a junior, I'm really starting to see the long-term work pay off," said Griffith. "Hopefully, we'll see even more pay off my senior year."
The men's and women's teams, which are coming off a solid performance at the unique Edinboro Rag Relays, both have young rosters with no seniors and just one junior on each side among the bunch.
Along with Griffith for the men and Wright for the women, freshman Cody Lancaster (Eastlake, Ohio/Eastlake North) has been a standout for Harmon's squad, finishing with a school freshman record with a 27:20 time in the Ric Sayre Invitational in Canton on Sept. 12.
"That's probably a freshman record that he'll drop later this year and probably will stand for a little while," Harmon said. "He's going to leave here in four years and have a boatload of records, that's for sure."
The Lake Erie cross country program - in its fifth season, all under Harmon - joined the full-time NCAA Division II ranks this season after spending the first few seasons in Division III.
Beginning next season, the Storm will join the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which holds its own conference meet annually in late October. But for this year, the Storm is viewing the All-Ohio Championship as its premier event.
"With no conference meet, it's tough to get really excited for a meet in the middle of the season, but we try and we do our best," Harmon said.
"It's a chance for us to make our mark. We haven't done it yet, but now is a good chance to start doing that."
So as the Storm makes its mark in Division II, the next step will be to progress into the GLIAC one year from now to face programs established long before Harmon came to Lake Erie from his alma mater at Tiffin University, which also competes in the GLIAC.
"We have our eyes set next year on the GLIAC championships," said Harmon. "We want to go out and compete like we've been there for the last five years and not like we're some new program or some expansion team that stuggles for five or six years. We want to put up a strong showing in our first year and we're on our way there."