A 2017 season preview with the head coaches for the men’s and women’s cross country teams
Sept. 5, 2017
By Wake Forest Athletic Communications (@WakeTrack)
John Hayes, Director of Track & Field and Cross Country, and Michelle Chewens, Head Women’s Cross Country/ Assistant Track & Field Coach, sat down with Wake Forest Athletics to discuss the expectations, predictions, and outlook for the upcoming season.
What is the outlook and mindset coming into the new season?
Hayes: I see great improvements for this team this season. I’m really excited. I think I’m more excited than some of the guys are. The guys are chomping at the bit to race but we won’t fully unleash our “A” team until the end of September. So my mindset is that I’m cautiously optimistic but super excited. The reality is we have the ability to be pretty good and I think there’s even a shot that we can get to Nationals. We have the ability, it’s just about if the guys are fully able to believe that they can do it.
What is, or is going to be, the biggest difference between the 2016 season and the 2017 season?
Chewens: The depth of our teams is definitely a difference because we now have 5-6 girls training at a level only 2-3 could last year. There was also an expectation over the summer that wasn’t here last year. This year, the girls knew that they had to train hard in the months leading to the start of the semester to have a shot at closing the gap between getting that NCAA auto-bid and being 23 points away from it. So, I think that’s a big factor as well.
How has the culture within the program shifted in the past year?
Hayes: I think the expectations are changing and that’s a process. I don’t think we’re completely there yet but we’re in this position where we want to be top half of the conference. We’d love to make Nationals. I want to get to that point and I think we’ll be at that point 365 days from now where we can say we’re top three in the conference and we’re competing at nationals. Chewens: Yeah, you can just tell that the girls want to be better and they understand what it really takes to be good at this level. We still have a lot of improving to do but it has definitely been change for the better in the past year.
Between the men’s and women’s team, 11 of the 33 student-athletes this season are freshmen. How will they impact the program?
Chewens: Although the transfer girls aren’t freshman, they’ve made a huge positive impact on the team already just because they have the drive to be very good. They jumped right in with our top girls. We have three incoming freshmen and they have just stuck their nose right in it. They have no fear of running with the best girls on the team in long runs and workouts so I’m really excited for their future. If we can make it through this year, stay healthy and get a lot of good training in, then they’ll be really successful through their collegiate career. Hayes: Yeah, the talent there for sure. There’s the capability, for several of our freshman, to impact our top five. We could have as many as three freshmen in our top-five if they’re able to adjust to college life. If they handle business, like being away from home for the first time, nicely there’s a chance of having three in the top five, which is great.
What is your outlook on the ACC this year?
Hayes: We want to be in the top half of the ACC. I think we made a goal in the spring to be top-six and I think that is a very doable goal. There are some really good teams ahead of us that will be tough to beat but again, I think if we do what we’re supposed to do we can exceed that goal. I think every person on this team would walk away disappointed if we’re not top-six. Chewens: We tied for sixth last year and finished eighth after the tiebreaker and I feel like we have a better team than 2016. I think being in the top-six is a good goal for us and on a great day, I am confident that we can be better than that. To consistently be in the top-half for two years in a row would give us some momentum moving forward to next year.
You added the Paul Short Run to the schedule this season, which is a large meet with a lot of good competition. Why the increase in difficulty?
Chewens: I think that both coach Hayes and I feel like we have stronger teams than we did last year. If we have an outside chance of making NCAAs, we should try to garner some points. Both of us have younger teams and getting that experience against high-level teams that are frequently at the national meet will help when we have a do make it there. Hayes: This meet features a lot of mid-Atlantic and northeastern teams. Just teams that are outside of our normal region. It’s a nice meet to really kickoff the main part of our season and I think we’ll keep going back there in the future.
What is your ultimate goal for the 2017 season?
Chewens: I think our main goal is to keep improving. With rebuilding a team, I think it’s hard to set an exact goal because we are still learning what we can really do. Just keeping up with the momentum and keeping the expectations high and getting the team to understand that it’s going to be hard work but we can really accomplish some things here. We want to be top-six in ACC and top-five in the region and just keep building for the next few years. Hayes: My ultimate goal is to keep everyone healthy. If we keep everybody healthy we can be good. That can figure in a lot of different ways but my goal is if we can be healthy in mid-November, then we will have had a successful season.