Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Athletes of the Week - WVU Women's Team

The Athletes of the Week for November 24th to 30th are the members of the WVU Women's Cross Country Team. Coached by Sean Cleary, this distance powerhouse went to Nationals for the second consecutive year and finished fourth. Led by Keri Bland (North Marion High School), this team scored 198 points and beat all the Mid-Atlantic Region qualifiers, as well as all of the teams qualified from the Big East. Returning every member of the starting seven, this program is poised to turn into a dynasty. Congratulations to the girls and Coach Cleary... Let's Go Moutaineers!
Now, allow me to pontificate. Sean Cleary is a genius. Sean Cleary pushed the Women's Cross Country program into a powerhouse with a mix of Canadians and West Virginians. He's made West Virginians into All-Americans, Olympic Trials qualfiers, NACAC medalists, US World Cross team members and more. Sean Cleary did this with no lights on his track, a mediocre indoor practice facility and less travel money for Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track COMBINED than the Women's Soccer team got for one trip to Europe for exhibitions. Coach Cleary has done all this, with West Virginia talent, and yet half of his genius is wasted. He has no men's team.

Cleary has the ablity to take a team of only West Virginians to Nationals or to within spitting distance. He has the ability to turn West Virginian State Champions into All-Americans. He brings in mountains of good press (go go team GPA!) and can do it with only a sprinkling of non-West Virginians. Now, assuming that Coach Cleary can do this with the Men (and the results from the West Virginian men who got cut in 2003 dictate that he can), why doesn't WVU bring back the Men's Team?

WVU AD says that it's money. So, if the Promise Scholarship pays West Virginians tuition and Sean Cleary can turn West Virginians into All-Americans, it goes to reason that WVU could have All-American men walking around Morgantown for almost... nothing. The WVU AD doesn't have to give a WVU Men's Cross Country program a single scholarship, Promise covers that for now. The AD would only have to buy three additional hotel rooms for Pre-Nationals, Big Easts and Regionals (the Men would ride in the 45+ empty seats on the Women's bus). The AD would also have to buy insurance, of course, and probably uniforms. Nike would pick up (or greatly discount) any shoes needed by the team. I'll bet my last dollar that Cleary won't need any extra compensation.

So, as a HUGELY inflated ballpark figure, let's say that WVU could get an additional All-American man every three years for $15,000 per year. That sum is slightly less than what WVU is paying Bill Stewart PER QUARTER OF GAME.

WVU, let's make a deal. Sean Cleary offers you a boost to the Athletic Department's average GPA, an All-American award every third year (at worst) and all the free publicity of West Virginians thumping people while wearing the Old Gold and Blue. In return, you'll have to buy seven uniforms, nine hotel rooms and one insurance policy. Take the offer before the 2009 season and I'll pick up the uniforms and hotel rooms myself. Come on Ed, this is an offer you can't refuse...

Monday, November 24, 2008


That's the highest finish in the history of the school and two more All-American awards, time to break out the champagne in Morgantown. The Mountaineers managed to shave off those 150 points from last year and vaulted up to fourth place as a team. Keri Bland led the way with 14th, Marie-Louise Asselin followed in 17th, Clara Grandt in 42nd, Kate Harrison in 69th, Kaylyn Christopher in 110th, Jessica O'Connell in 160th and Ahna Lewis in 163rd. Keri and Marie-Louise earned another couple All-American awards for the trophy case with their top-40 placings.

The Big Three helped the cause by shaving 33 points (89-56) off of their 2007 totals, but the big move came in the 4th and 5th spots with Kate Harrison and Kaylyn Christopher. Those two bested the 2007 4th and 5th results by 144 points! (286-142) In the process of finishing 4th, the ladies beat Princeton (who tied them at Regionals) and beat Villanova (who beat them at Big East).

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mountaineers are always...

After reading the sparse MSN preview of the NCAA Championship today, I made the executive decision to unleash an authentic W preview of the Mountaineers and their invasion of Indiana. (Note: not authentic unless you listen to this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyq55YzJY3o while you read.)

If you want to get a good grip on where WVU will place at Nationals, you have to get a feel for where each of these young ladies is going to place. Last season, the team finished 9th, which was the highest finish in school history. To garner 9th, they scored 375 points and were 55 points from 5th. So, let's break down what these girls have done and kind of points these girls can put up in 2008...

Three's Company

Marie-Louise Asselin -- A product of Sarnia, Ont., Marie-Louise is a junior and looking to improve on her 17th place from last year. Until Regionals, Marie-Louise had been dynamite this season, blowing up the competition in every meet she's entered. Unfortunately, Marie-Louise had trouble at Regionals and did not perform to her expectations. Thankfully, she hung tough and still finished with a solid race. She's a gamer and will bring everything she can to Terra Haute.

Keri Bland -- A graduate from North Marion High School, this junior is looking to bring up her 32nd place finish from 2007. Keri laid some wood this past Spring and Summer, throwing out some of incredible 1500m performances. After a very long season, Keri had a short build-up for the Fall, but still led the team to victory at Penn State earlier in the season. Ms. Bland has won 3 consecutive All-American awards and that won't end any time soon.

Clara Grandt -- A graduate from THE Doddridge County High School, this redshirt junior will be trying to pick up from her 73rd placing in 2007. Clara has won just about every cross country award in the book.. but for, All-American. Well, it takes a tough girl to make All-American and they make girls tough down in Doddridge County.

Those three girls usually run their own races and run them consistently. They are so consistent, that the team place in Indiana isn't going to be determined by these three. They'll be running for personal glory, and their 5 to 10 place swings will be worth a few points. But, the team will live and die by the performance of...

The Four Horsemen

(Note: turn up the music to 11.)

If WVU is going to jump from 9th to 3rd, they're going to need to shed about 150 points from last year. The top 3 cannot improve 150 points, the 4-7 girls can (must) improve 150 points. These four girls seem to pack up early and string out late in races. At what places they pack up and at what places they string out will determine where WVU places.

Kaylyn Christopher -- A Paul Martin protege from Preston High School, Kaylyn is the only one of the Four Horsemen with NCAA Championship experience. Kaylyn got in at 215th place last year and will have to improve on that performance. Kaylyn was 17th at Regionals and 18th at Big East. If they are going to make a run a 200 points, Kaylyn is going to bring a big race to NCAAs.

Ahna Lewis -- Morgantown High School graduate and redshirt freshman. Ahna ran 19:20 down at Foot Lockers last year in the Open race. 19:20 for 5K. Now she's running 6K in the low-21s. She was 22nd at Big East and was 15th at Regionals. I was at the Regional meet and was standing at the 5500m mark. I don't know if Ahna was actually crazy when she passed me, but she had that "killkillkillkill" look in her eyes as she flew by. She brings that to Indiana with her and the point total is going to start looking smaller.

Jessica O'Connell -- Jessica is a transfer from the University of Calgary and is working into a groove in Morgantown. She was banged up earlier in the year and has been working through that problem. Formerly a roommate of W (I'm still holding her goldfish for ransom), she was 29th at Big East and 33rd at Regionals. If she can pull it together and just focus on the girl in front of her, she'll be in great shape.

Kate Harrison -- Kate Harrison is a sophomore from Toronto, Ont. Toronto is a gigantic town with ridiculous traffic. I keep refusing to drive in that city and Megan keeps roping me into doing so. I had to drive through the area of town housing the university and got sorely tempted to mow down all the bicyclists. I don't mind sharing the road, but those on two wheels ought to try sharing back. At any rate, Kate's fast and finished 23rd at Regionals and 32nd at Big East. Kate is pretty experienced for a sophomore and I think she'll be able to rise to the occasion.

So, when we start adding up points, they've got to get under 200 if the girls are going to get on the podium. Let's say 55 points for the pack of three. The girls are then going to need two of the Four Horsemen to run in the 60s or 70s. That won't require a "race of a lifetime" performance, but those girls had better come out guns blazing. Considering four of the girls on varsity have NCAA experience, butterflies shouldn't be too large an issue. I'm feeling good about their chances, but sometimes NCAAs turns out to be more of a throw of the dice than a sure thing.

Anyone interested in watching the race should DRIVE TO TERRA HAUTE. Seriously, it's an easy 6 hour drive. There will be girls from Morgantown, North Marion, Doddridge and Preston fighting for a spot on the podium at NCAAs. This is a rare event. Take the Monday off, buy a bag of beef jerky, fill up with $2 gas, put on your blue and gold and hit the road. But... if your future father-in-law is flying in from across the continent then I suggest you watch the coverage live at http://www.ncaa.com/. If you can make it to Indiana or not, Let's Go... Mountaineers!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Athlete of the Week - Ahna Lewis

The Athlete of the Week for Nov. 17-23 is Ahna Lewis. Miss Lewis earns her AotW for her performance at Mid-Atlantic Regionals. In Princeton, with the assistance of Kaylyn Christopher, Lewis pulled the Mountaineer's bacon out of the fire and helped secure a tie for the championship. Ahna is a 2007 graduate of Morgantown High and now runs for WVU under Sean Cleary.

In her junior and senior seasons, she did not score points for the Mohigans at the WV Cross Country State Meet and barely broke 21 minutes at Mineral Wells and 22 minutes on Cabell Midland's course. Fast-forward 2 years and she's scoring points for a Regional-winning, D-I school while out-leaning a girl who qualified for Foot Locker Nationals in high school.

Best of luck to Ahna and the rest of the Mountaineers as they head to Terra Haute.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cartoon Portraits!

With Cross Country still going strong and the Holiday Season fast approaching, it seems to be the perfect oppurtunity to offer you guys a chance to get your very own Cartoon Portrait, just like the one seen below. This full color picture can be a fun and thoughtful gift which will certainly become a piece of cherished memorabilia. Celebrate birthdays, sporting events, weddings, retirements or any other special occasion. It's up to you! All you need to do is e-mail me at caseybatey@yahoo.com and I'll send you detailed instructions on how you can get one of these right away. The pictures are done on a first-come first-serve basis, so get yours now, so the wait isn't as long.

Schiffy wanted to be the New Poster Child for RunTheArb so here you go.

For Cartoon Portraits with 1-3 people, the cost is $30 for each person in the picture. This will also include a FREE Full Color 11x14 print for each person. Additional prints after that are $12.

For Cartoon Portraits with 4 or more people the cost is $25 for each person in the picture. This will also include a FREE Full Color 11x14 print for each person. Additional prints after that are $12.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Athlete of the Week - Andrew Benford

The Athlete of the Week for November 10th - 16th is Andrew Benford. Mr. Benford is a Junior at Richmond University and runs for Steve Taylor. He earns his AotW honor by finishing 4th at the Atlantic 10 Championships on November 1st. His 4th place, in a time of 24:13, won him a place on his third All-Conference Cross Country team. Andrew is a 2006 graduate of Ravenswood High School, where he won numerous track and cross country titles. Best of luck to Andrew at Regionals.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Athlete of the Week - Marie-Louise Asselin

The AotW for Nov. 3rd-9th is Marie-Louise Asselin. Marie-Louise won the Big East Championship at Van Cortland Park in a stellar time of 20:10. Ms. Asselin runs for the Mountaineers under Coach Sean Cleary. WVU finished second with points, helped along by Clara Grandt's 3rd place and Keri Bland's 4th. Marie-Louise has won every race she's entered this fall and looks to make some serious noise as an individual in the NCAA Championships at the end of the month. Hat's off to Ms. Asselin, and good luck later this month.

This was probably the hardest weekend for AotW selection since Olympic Trials weekend. A #1, #3 and #4 at Big Easts, a #4 at A-10s, a #14 and #15 at C-USAs and 15:56/18:28 performances at the State Meet. Great job by all, and keep up the hard work.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween from the Mean Green Machine.

Don't maker her angry. You wouldn't like her when she's angry.

WVU runner Keri Bland scares away the competition with her intense rage and abnormally large pecs (those are real folks).

Thanks to the advent of facebook, I will be able to post pictures of the best, and worst, Halloween costumes from runners across the state. Keep checking back on this post as I will be adding pictures to it over the next few days.

Wheeling Jesuit coach and superstar post-collegiate runner, Ricky Moore is dressed in what appears to be a bigfoot costume. He is carrying his bruiser son on Trick or Treat.


Cody Pelliccioni takes the win with a perfectly run race!!

Letitia Propst runs a jaw-dropping race to take the win!!

I really do feel sorry for those who didn't a chance to see these two up and coming runners compete this weekend. Cody just solidified himself as a WV legend as he ran the 2nd fastest time on the Cabell Midland course, as only a sophomore. As for Letitia, all I could do is watch in stunned silence at one of the greatest racers I've ever seen in WV running. These two deserve major props (Props to Propst)for a job well done.

Complete coverage coming soon.

Photos shamlessly lifted from the tristatrunnur site. Thanks Darrell.