As the Storm cross country program continues to grow, individual and team accomplishments will follow. This season, the focus is on individual improvements which can last throughout the year into track season.
"Numbers-wise, we're a thin team, so we're looking at it much more from an individual standpoint than a team perspective," said sixth-year head coach Bryan Harmon. "Each person has a different purpose for this cross country season heading into track in the winter and spring."
With this vision in mind, Harmon's expectations are focused on lowering the times of as many runners as possible.
"We're hoping everything falls into place and the training pays off," explained Harmon. "We're looking to get better week-by-week and that's our only expectation. Judging by the workouts over the course of the last three weeks, we're getting there and are pretty optimistic we can run some personal bests in the next few weeks."
On the men's side, every runner from last season's squad returns. However, two of the top three runners heading into the preseason – senior Kyle Griffin (Painesville, Ohio/Harvey/Capital) and sophomore Jimmy Hudd (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor/Ashland) – are hampered by injuries. As the lone senior on the men's team, Griffin is being looked at to thrive in a leadership role when he returns to the course.
"Kyle's our leader in every aspect," said Harmon. "He's the guy who does it from a running standpoint, a workout standpoint, a racing standpoint – he goes hard all the time."
Griffin is currently the school-record holder in the 8K with a mark of 26:51 while Hudd transferred into Lake Erie for Spring semester and was Storm's top runner in the 5000m during track season.
The third member of the top trio, sophomore Cody Lancaster (Eastlake, Ohio/Eastlake North), is expected to shoulder a greater load until his teammates return later in the season. Lancaster holds the second fastest time in school history at 27:02.
"Cody's stepped up into the role of number one runner while Kyle's out," said Harmon. "He's doing a great job with workouts and keeping the team motivated."
On the women's side, several mid-distance runners in the track season are being asked to branch out to the 6K distance for cross country.
"The women have some challenges to overcome after losing some of our runners from last year" said Harmon. "It's going to take a lot of hard work and while most of our runners are better at track, they know it starts with cross country."
The top two runners on the women's side are expected to be junior Allison Wright (Columbus, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson) and sophomore Leah Jones (Maple Heights, Ohio/Maple Heights). Wright's season-best time a year ago was 21:03, while Jones posted a 21:33.
"They both do a good job of working hard and leading by example," said Harmon. "When it's time to work hard they buckle down and they had some good workouts over the last week."
In the middle of the lineup, junior Kyle Herron (Perry, Ohio/Perry) looks to move up in the order to fill the shoes of departed runners.
"She's got some higher expectations for herself this year and I have those expectations of her as well," said Harmon.
Lake Erie starts competition Sept. 4 as it travels to Tiffin, Ohio for the Tiffin Short Course.