Mix of Young and Old Lead Grizzlies in 2005
With three seniors returning to the squad after being redshirted in 2004 and a host of runners new to Oakland University, the menís cross country team had high expectations going into the 2005 season. Finishing fourth at 2004ís Mid-Continent Conference Championship without three of its top runners, the Golden Grizzlies knew the ceiling was high for 2005. That success was realized when Oakland placed all five of its scoring runners in the top 15 at this yearís Mid-Con Championship to claim the team crown. The team also earned its first-ever regional ranking, holding the 14th spot in the United State Cross Country Coaches Association Great Lakes Region poll for two weeks.
Senior Adam Frezza (Oxford, Mich.) led the Golden Grizzlies all season, finishing as the top Oakland runner in every meet he competed. He claimed first place in three meets throughout the season, including the Mid-Con Championship. His first victory of the season helped the Golden Grizzlies earn second place at the Crusader. Along with Frezza, Oakland placed two other runners in the top five, with senior John Cook (St. Clair, Mich.) taking fourth and freshman Kenny Wassus (Monroe, Mich.) claiming fifth place.
By finishing as the runner-up at the Central Collegiate Championships, the Golden Grizzlies earned consecutive second-place finishes. Frezza earned his second victory in as many races with a time of 24:58 in the 8K event. His teammates secured the second-place finish by placing the four other scoring runners in the top 25, led by senior Paul Kulisek (Wonder Lake, Ill.), who earned 11th place with a time of 25:51.
In a longer race than Oakland Is accustomed, the team proved it could go the distance at the Western Invitational. Frezza was the top Golden Grizzly finisher in the 10K event, placing fifth overall with a time of 32:28. Kulisek led the rest of the squad, claiming 22nd place in 33:26, and was followed closely by fellow senior Cook, who took 27th place with a time of 33:54. Oakland earned a total of 130 team points to finish fourth out of 17 teams in the event.
On its home course, Oakland proved to be best among Division I squads at the Michigan Intercollegiate Championship, held on OUís Katke-Cousins Golf Course. The Golden Grizzlies finished third overall with 70 points in the 4K race, but was first among Div. I competition. Frezza earned third overall, posting a time of 11:50.7, but it was once again the strong team performance that led the Golden Grizzlies to success. Kulisek (13th, 12:11.8) and Cook (25th, 12:24.3) finished second and third among Oakland runners for the second straight race, while Wassus (29th, 12:25.1) and freshman Andrew Lawrick (Baroda, Mich.) (32nd, 12:30.2) finished just over five seconds apart to round out the scoring runners. In that same meetís 8K event, Oakland took eighth place overall with 192 points, led by freshman Jeff Standfest (China Township, Mich.), who finished in 28th place with a time of 26:41.9.
In a final tune up before the Mid-Con Championship, the Golden Grizzlies competed at the Pre-Nationals meet hosted by Indiana State. Oakland finished in 30th place with 688 points, led by Frezzaís 48th-place finish among the 217 competitors. The 24:33.5 mark posted by Frezza in the 8K race turned out to be his fastest time of the season and second-fastest time in the Mid-Con in 2005. Kulisek also posted his fasted time of the season in the race, 25:14.6, which was the fourth-fastest mark in the conference.
Kulisek and Frezza parlayed their success at the Pre-National meet into top five finishes at the Mid-Con Championships two weeks later. Oakland recorded 38 points to edge Southern Utah (42), which had won seven of the last eight Mid-Con menís team titles. Frezza took the top spot with a time of 24:51.3, while Kulisek earned third in 25:16.2. The Golden Grizzlies were helped to the team title by an eighth-place finish by sophomore transfer Jason Young (Jason Young, Mich.) and an 11th-place finish for Lawrick. Wassusí 15th-place finish, two spots ahead of Southern Utahís final scoring runner, clinched the team title for Oakland.
Oakland wrapped up the 2005 season at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet, finishing 17th out of the 30 teams competing. Frezza concluded his career first among OU runners with a 36th-place finish in the 10K race with a time of 32:20.6. Kulisek also closed the final chapter on his career in fine form, finishing 76th among 195 competitors with a 33:23.1 mark.
The Golden Grizzly menís cross country squad reached the expectations it set for itself by winning the Mid-Con team title with the help of three fine seniors: Frezza, Kulisek and Cook. But the success should not be limited to one season. Underclassmen were a vital part of the teamís 2005 championship campaign, and the experience they had this season will only help them in the future. With Lawrick, Young, Wassus and Standfest leading the way, the Golden Grizzlies should have the runners to compete for a second-straight Mid-Con Championship in 2006.