Golden Grizzlies Look to Lead Race for Mid-Con Title
For Oakland’s men’s cross-country team hopes are high and the goal is big – win their first ever Mid-Continent Conference Championship. The women, on the other hand, have a different goal – fill the shoes of redshirt senior Kristie Kieffer and outrun defending champs Southern Utah.
After finishing a close second to defending men’s cross country champs Southern Utah last year, head coach Paul Rice feels his team has the upper hand this year.
"With the defending champions redshirting a lot of their top guys, and our top guys being healthy, I think we can hit that goal of winning the conference championship this year" said Rice.
To help reach that goal, the Golden Grizzlies will rely on top running junior Jason Brushca (Sterling Heights/Eastern Michigan) as well as top returning freshman Adam Frezza (Oxford/Lake Orion) to anchor the team. In addition to these frontrunners, senior and captain Bill Monnett (Clawson/Clawson) and sophomore runner Paul Kulisek (Wonder Lake, Illinois/Woodstock) will be looked upon to help lead the team.
"Jason will be ranked second in the conference individually this year and should have a great opportunity to take the title," said Rice. "Adam Frezza, who was All-Conference as a freshman last year is looking much better this year at this point."
With no freshman joining this year’s roster, Rice has 12 of his runners returning. Senior Monnett is joined by fellow seniors Ryan Bissell (Vassar/Vassar), Rob Camilleri (White Lake/Lakeland), and Gabe Wordell (Rochester/Bethesda Christian) to lead the team. Bruscha heads the class of juniors on this year’s team that include Brandon Frisk (Shelby Township/Eisenhower) and Luke Williams (Wayland/Hopkins). The sophomore class is the largest for the Grizzlies with five men – Frezza, Kulisek, John Cook (St. Clair/St. Clair), Pat Klein (Commerce Twp./White Lake Lakewood), and Matt Nistor (Sterling Heights/Stevenson/Aquinas College).
The women have a competitive road to travel this year. Having senior captain and standout Kristie Keiffer (Sterling Heights/Michigan) redshirting the season, coach Rice is anticipating a number of front-runners that could emerge and become a leader of the team.
The women will look to sophomore All-Conference runner Melissa Nasers (Battle Creek/Lakeview) to help lead the team and run strong for Oakland.
"It’s going to be a bit of a mixed bag this year," Rice said. "As far as week in and week out, the rotation is going to change a little bit between the runners."
Having no running seniors on the team this year will prove to be a tough challenge for the Golden Grizzlies. However, the year will provide the experience and improvement the team will need in order to compete for the conference championship next year.
"This is the year where we’ll develop new front runners and get much experience in big meets for the young girls," said Rice. "So that next year, having Kristie back, we’ll be more experienced, ready to go, and make a run at the championship."
Returning for the Grizzlies are juniors Lisa Marie Cianciolo (Rochester/ICS Home School), Kathy Harenski (Warren/Mott), and Andrea Sutter (Sterling Heights/Setvenson). The sophomore class includes runners Kara Coraci (Macomb/Utica Eisenhower), Sarah Kane (Sterling Heights/Sterling Heights), and Melissa Nasers (Battle Creek/Lakeview). The newcomers for the women this year are Sarah Drouillard (Lake Orion/Lake Orion), Amber Nagel (Napoleon/Ohio), Kim Schultz (Vermilion/Ohio), and Stephanie Pierce (Marshall/Harper Creek).
As for every season, keeping healthy will be key for this year’s cross-country teams. With the perseverance, hard work, and dedication the teams show, dreams can be made and conference championships can be won.