A little confidence and maturing has never hurt anyone before. And that is exactly what the 2000 menís cross country team is going to stand by. The Golden Grizzlies, who lost their top three runners from 1999, are young for the 2000 season.
Despite having a young and inexperienced team at this level head coach Paul Rice feels that a top three finish is a realistic goal for 2000. With that in mind Oakland is looking to exceed their last yearís fifth-place finish.
"I think the faster courses we will be running this year will boost our confidence," Rice said. "Southern Utah is untouchable and UMKC returns a tough squad. Other than that we have a good chance to finish right after them."
In order to obtain this goal, OU will rely heavily on returnees Kurt Brinker (Jr., China/St. Clair HS) and Scott Kinczkowski (Jr./White Lake/Lakeland HS). Freshman Brandon Fisk will also be looked upon to make major contributions in 2000.
"With these three guys and their potential, I am confident that they will fill in the areas that need to be filled for us to be successful," Rice said.
Pack running is essential to be successful in cross country and this year OU plans to run closer together with smaller gaps and tighter packs rather than being so spread out.
"Last year we were so spread out between our first and fifth runner that it didnít benefit the team," Rice said. "There was such a gap that it made it hard for us to be successful."
Preparation and growth are the main ingredients that Rice will be looking for this year. He has set up his schedule so that the team can see exactly where they stand when they face the top teams in the nation.
"We have chosen to go to Iowa State and compete in the prenational tournament," Rice said. "This way we will see where we stand against some of the top teams in the nation."
Although the Grizzlies start in September, Rice doesnít expect his team to preform at its highest level until October.
"With the way the schedule is set up, I think we will be training for the future in the first month," Rice said. "In October I hope we will come on strong and be successful when we face our tough meets."
Rice is hoping that his team will be focused and this season that is a healthy one. He is planning to put a spell on the illness and injury bugs.
"With us being as young as we are going to be, we are going to have to stay healthy and have our younger guys run like more mature runners than just freshman," Rice said.
In 2000 Oakland will be without junior Ryan Bissel (Jr./ Vassar/ Vassar HS) who was the Grizzlies top runner twice last year. He will receive a medical redshirt and will have two more years of eligibility remaining. Also being redshirted is the Golden Grizzlies top runner from last year Bill Monnet (Jr./ Clawson/ Clawson HS).
"We decided to redshirt Ryan because we have such a young team, and he wonít be fully recovered," Rice said. "We figured it would be better to have him 100 percent when he competes.
"With the young talent coming up we decided that it would be in the best interest to redshirt Bill because we project that we will have a strong team in a couple of years and he will be a major contributor."
The Golden Grizzlies begin the season by traveling to the Motor City Classic (9/2) hosted by Wayne State, and then travel down river to the Tommy Titan Classic (9/9) hosted by University of Detroit. OU then travels to Wisconsin to take part in the Midwest Collegiate race (9/16) and on September 30, OU will participate in the Rambler Invitational.
To kick off the month of October, the Golden Grizzlies travel across state to Western Michigan where they will compete in the Michigan Intercollegiates (10/6). In mid October, Oakland will take part in consecutive races hosted by Western Illinois, the WIU Fall Festival race (10/14) and the Mid- Continent Conference Championship (10/28).
Finally the Golden Grizzlies will determine their fate in the Great Lakes Regional Competition (11/11) which is hosted by Eastern Michigan.
By the end of the year, Rice envisions a more prepared, mature, and confident line-up to bring home quality times that will improve their standings in the conference. With that in mind, he hopes that this will ensure a future of good things to come for menís cross country.
"We are preparing for the regional tournament," Rice said. "Now that we have a little taste of Division I in our mouths, we know exactly what we are competing against and what we have to do to be successful."