Elon cross country is quickly becoming one of the most formidable programs in the Colonial Athletic Association. With the women’s team looking to achieve a historic milestone and the men’s team loaded with young talent, both will look to contend for conference championships this fall.
Kevin Jermyn is in his fifth season as head coach for both teams and is looking forward to what is in store for his runners.
“We want to make the most of whatever opportunities we have,” Jermyn said. “We can’t control everything that happens. We can only control our effort and our attitude, and that’s what we’ll try to focus our best on.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the teams pushed their 2020 fall seasons back to the spring of 2021. There were just three meets last season, about half of what constitutes a typical cross country schedule. This year, however, the teams currently have five meets on the calendar.
This season, the women’s cross country team will attempt to accomplish something that no Elon team has done since joining the CAA in 2014 — win three consecutive conference championships.
The last Elon team to win three conference championships was the men’s soccer team, which earned three consecutive Southern Conference tournament titles from 2011- 2013. Only the women’s track and field team has won back-to- back conference titles since Elon joined the CAA, doing so in 2015 and 2016.
Additionally, no women’s cross country team in the CAA has won three straight team titles since William & Mary claimed five in a row from 2012-2016.
Jermyn believes the Phoenix has a strong chance of making history this season but also wants to convey to his team that the season is not “just about some trophy.”
“We want to keep on pushing to try to keep evolving and growing,” Jermyn said. “We’re wanting to get better and do things we’ve never done before, but we also want to enjoy it and have fun doing what we do and make that a reward because while a championship happens on one day, your experience is ultimately a summation of all the days.”
Junior Maria Ahm is coming off a stellar individual season, having defended her CAA individual title in the 6K race with a time of 19:37 at the CAA Championship meet, a record for the event. Ahm believes her individual success is a result of her dedication to the sport.
“It’s about consistency and working hard every day,” Ahm said. “It’s about going out and running even on the days you don’t want to.”
Jermyn said “tremendous strength” to Elon’s cross country program and serves as a role model for how other runners should conduct themselves both on and off the course.
“She brings a passion and a work ethic that is as high and strong as anybody I’ve ever coached,” Jermyn said.
Other runners returning from last year’s championship team include senior Hannah Preeo, juniors Anna Twomey and Maggie Springer and redshirt sophomore Leandra Lorenz, all of whom earned all-CAA honors.
Ahm said the team has strong chemistry and is confident they can win a third straight conference title.
“It would mean a lot and I think it would show how consistent we are,” Ahm said. “Winning the title for a third time in a row would be huge and I really believe we can do it.”
Looking to break through
While the men’s cross country team has not enjoyed the same amount of success the women’s team has in recent seasons, the group is confident they are on the brink of breaking through in the CAA.
Among the leaders on this year’s team is junior Aidan Tierney, who has earned all-CAA honors each of the last two seasons and finished eighth in last season’s CAA championship.
The men’s program has not won a conference title since it won the Southern Atlantic Conference in 1996, but with a young core of runners returning, Tierney is confident the team is capable of improving on last season’s results and possibly pushing for a CAA title.
“We have the personnel, we have the talent, we have what we need to do something really special in the history of this school,” Tierney said. “I really do believe this could be our strongest year ever.”
Other runners returning this year are senior Andrew Miller, junior Tamer Metwali and sophomores Zane Jackson, Ethan Mimeles and Cameron Dunn. Miller earned all-CAA honors in each of his first three seasons and is the only senior on this year’s roster.
Jermyn believes some of the younger runners on the roster could take huge strides this season to help expand the team’s depth and possibly push them toward the top of the CAA this season.
“Certainly, we’ve been led by two all-conference guys, so the next step is to see if we can become three, four and five deep,” Jermyn said. “If we can have some guys close the gap in the fourth and fifth spots, we can go out there and try to contend for being the top two in the conference.”
The Elon Opener
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams will begin their seasons on Sept. 3 in the Elon Opener at the Elon University cross country course. The race begins at 8 p.m. with spectators allowed.
Due to COVID-19, Elon’s cross country program was unable to host a meet last season. Jermyn believes the event will serve as a “rust buster” for both teams and is glad they have the opportunity to compete at home this year.
“We’ve just gotta go out there and race to know, ‘Ok, this is what we’re training for,’ because when you spend three or four months just training, you get stuck in a mindset where you’re doing a lot of easy and medium stuff, but racing is a whole ‘nother skillset,” Jermyn said. “All we look for in this meet is to get back in touch with that.”