The Nebraska men’s cross country team will have almost an entirely new look in Coach David Harris’ first season at the reins of the program.
Not only did the Huskers graduate four seniors from former Coach Jay Dirksen’s final NU squad, but senior Trevor Vidlak will redshirt during 2012-2013 season, and senior Tommy Brinn will see a much lighter work load than expected due to an injury suffered in the spring. Another returning runner that will be redshirting this year will be junior Connor Gibson.
Vidlak, a Lincoln native and returning captain for NU will be missed this upcoming season after performing at a high level throughout his career with the Huskers. Vidlak earned Nebraska’s Most Valuable Cross Country Runner in 2011, as well as Most Improved Runner in 2010. During the 2011-12 season Vidlak was at his best at the SDSU Classic in Brookings, S.D. winning the individual meet title, running a time of 24:46.7.
Also seeing his competition limited this season, Brinn’s senior leadership and experience will be missed during the 2012-13 season. The native of Ostego, Mich. had a very successful junior season for NU, competing at his best at the SDSU Classic, placing 12th while running a time of 26:14.6.
The heavy losses from last year’s squad will present both challenges and opportunities for Harris and a young Husker team.
“This will by far be the youngest team to compete in this program’s history,” Harris said. “I keep telling my team that we need the younger kids to step up so we can make strides into the future, due to the fact that we do not have many seniors this season.”
Nebraska’s top active returning runner in 2012 will be Jarren Heng. The junior from Norfolk, Neb., will be counted on to lead a young Husker squad in training and competition, while improving his times from a solid sophomore season.
“The expectations are high for Jarren this year, both in leadership and performance,” Harris said. “He has put in the work to make progress in his running career at the Big Ten level. He will be one of our men’s captains and with that comes incorporating all of our freshmen into the 2012 season. That could play a pretty big part in the future success of this program in the years to come.”
Heng performed at a high level throughout his sophomore campaign, posting a pair of top-five finishes on the year. He took second at the UNO/Creighton Invitational in a time of 27:31.24. He added another runner-up finish two weeks later at the South Dakota State Classic, posting a time of 25:25.9 to help the Huskers capture a team title.
Brett Grieb, Anthony Pittman and Dani Dapo will join Heng as runners expected to lead the young Husker squad in 2012. Grieb, junior from York, Neb., hopes to continue his improvement while adding veteran leadership on and off the course. He competed in three meets for the Huskers in 2011 and posted a personal-best time of 28:48.1 at the Woody Greeno/Nebraska Invitational. An outstanding student, Grieb captured third-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in 2011-12.
Pittman will also enter his third year in the cross country program after redshirting in 2011. The sophomore from Omaha plans to regain the success he found on the course as a freshman, while improving his times to help lead the Huskers. Pittman hopes to be one of the Huskers’ top-seven runners in 2012.
Dapo, a native of Omaha will also be looked upon to lead the young group of Huskers this season. Dapo will be competing in his last season with NU, and will be one of the only seniors competing for the Huskers in the fall. Dapo will add depth to the team this year, and will likely be a top seven runner.
With only four returning runners expecting to make significant contributions for the Huskers this year, Nebraska’s seven-member freshman class will be counted on to make immediate contributions.
One of Nebraska’s most talented recruits in recent history, Jonah Heng, a native of Overland Park, Kan., will have a very bright future for NU. “Jonah probably has the best distance credentials with his performance at the Midwest Regionals last year in high school. He just missed going to Nationals, and then backed that up with a 9:06 two mile that broke the Kansas state high school record.”
Aron Sebhat, a native of Skokie, Ill., is a touted recruit for NU. Sebhat, a graduate of Niles North high school had a phenomenal high school career, and owns multiple records at the school. “Aron will make an impact on day one for the Huskers.”
Another incoming freshman that will contribute right away is Jacob Olson. Olson is a native of Kearney, and earned Gatorade Runner of the Year in the state of Nebraska as a senior. “Olson is one of the top runners coming out of the state this year, and has the potential to become a great runner.”
Matt Bloch, a native of Valley Village, Calif. will also be one of NU’s top freshman runners coming into the 2012-13 season. Bloch recorded several top-10 finishes at the California State Track and Field Championships, as well as a fifth place finish in cross country.
Adam Procknow, a native of Cary, Ill. will look to adjust to the longer distances covered in collegiate cross country this year. Procknow will add depth to the young Huskers and will look to build strength in the coming years.
Matt Gillbert, a standout runner from Fenton Mich., will also look to add depth this year for NU. Gilbert brings a lot of credentials from Fenton high school, earning all-state honors as well as all-region honors.
Taylor Anders a native of Greely, Colo., will add depth to the Huskers team this year, and is looked upon to be in the top-seven this season. Anders recorded numerous top ten finishes in the Colorado State Track and Field championships, as well as competing in the cross country State Championship.
The tough task of taking on more extensive training to help conquer both longer races will challenge the first-year Huskers. An even greater challenge for the freshmen-laden team will come with the strength of the Big Ten Conference.
Defending NCAA champion Wisconsin headlines a group of five Big Ten teams that finished among the top 30 in the nation in 2011. Indiana closed the year in seventh at the NCAA Championships to join the Badgers in the top 10. Michigan took 17th and Minnesota closed the year 19th to contribute a pair of top-20 NCAA finishes for the conference, while Ohio State added a 30th-place showing at nationals.
Before competing against the best the runners the conference has to offer at the Big Ten Championships in East Lansing, Mich., on Oct. 28, the young Huskers will begin laying their foundation for success with the season-opening Creighton/UNO Classic in Omaha on Sept. 1. Two weeks later the Huskers will play host to the Woody Greeno/Nebraska Invitational at Pioneers Park in Lincoln on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 10 a.m. Nebraska returns to the road for the KU Rim Rock Farm Classic on Sept. 29, before competing at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Oct. 12. Following Nebraska’s second appearance at the Big Ten Championships, the NCAA Midwest Regional will be held in Springfield, Mo., on Nov. 9. The NCAA Championships are set for Nov. 17 in Louisville, Ky.
“Expectations for the freshmen may be too high for their first season,” Harris said, “but in the end it will help build a strong foundation for success in the future.”