Blackburn men’s cross country starts Aug. 31

Blackburn College’s mens cross country team includes, from left, Seth Tonsor, Mitchell Elliott, Andrew Rowe, Christian Gragnano, Paul Kline, Nathan Speckhart, Jake DeRouse and Nathan Wagner.

By Colin Gowin, Blackburn College Sports Information
The Blackburn men’s cross country team enters the 2013 campaign with some high hopes. The program has a new head coach while also retaining last year’s coach as a part-time consultant. The new head coach is Jason Baribeau. Coach Baribeau is in his third year at Blackburn and is also the head coach for the men’s basketball team. Joining Baribeau is Mark Hopping, who was in charge of the program the past two years and will still run with the team a few times per week. Former Blackburn harrier Marshall Petty will also be helping with the team.

The Beavers return their top individual runner in addition to other key returners. Christian Gragnano of Peoria, Ariz. returns to headline the team. Gragnano was the team’s top runner a year ago and won the Beaverthon Road Race at the 2012 homecoming. Other returnees include: Andrew Rowe, Nathan Speckhart, Jacob DeRousse, Paul Kline, Seth Tonsor and Nathan Wagner. A couple freshmen are looking to help the program out. Leading the freshmen is Mitchell Elliot. Elliot is from Tower Hill and ran a personal best 18:23 for a 5K race. Other freshmen are Craig Covert and Patterson Friese.

The team will open the season Aug. 31, at the Principia North Farm Opener. The first race is one of the most important races on the schedule as they will see several of the teams from the conference including the strong host Principia program. Other important meets are at Millikin University, Illinois College and Benedictine University at Springfield on three consecutive weekends, Oct. 5, 12, and 19. These meets will ready the team for the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships in Hillsboro, Nov. 2.