Nevada Men’s Cross Country, the newest sanctioned sport on campus, has signed its first four athletes. They become the first scholarship athletes for the program since it was reinstated on campus last semester. Nevada previously had a Men’s Track team that also competed in cross country.
The team is set to debut in the fall, but still has ways to go before they’re ready to take the field. Specifically, step one is filling out the remainder of the 12 man roster. Head coach Kirk Elias believes that the foundation they’ve built so far is strong, but more work has to be done before they’re ready to compete.
“I think we have a good core, but now we’re looking for a few other good people,” Elias said. “We’ll see who we can track down.”
Elias has built his roster this far mainly on local talent. Only one of the four signees is from outside the Reno/Carson area.
Daniel Horner and Jared Marchegger are the first two incoming freshmen Elias has signed to the team. Horner, a Reno native, currently attends Spanish Springs High School. The young distance runner placed second at the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association 4A State Championship in the 5,000-meter run.
Marchegger comes to Nevada from Sierra Lutheran High School in Carson City, bringing with him a 5,000-meter 2A state championship. He has also been the top finisher at local and national events including, the Fernley Roadhill Invitational and the Nike Southwest Regional Championships. Both races were 5,000-meters in distance.
Transferring from Arizona is Henry Weisberg, who is expected to redshirt his sophomore season. The McQueen High School graduate returns to his hometown of Reno after representing the Wildcats at the PAC-12 Championship last season.
The lone runner from outside the state is Washington resident, Adam Sjolund. Sjolund has competed in a lengthy list of both track and cross country events including, 3200-meter, 800- meters and the 4×400 relay. Cross country athletes are allowed to compete in up to five track and field events during a school year, something that Elias looks to capitalize on.
Elias plans to add more prospects as talent becomes available in the lead up to fall. He specifically is looking to recruit some young men with experience in collegiate running and leadership qualities.
“I’m talking to a junior college athlete,” he said. “ I’m going to be watching the transfer portal because I would love to bring in two upper-class athletes to bring a little bit of maturity to the group.”
Elias has received over 20 emails expressing interest in joining the team. This may be because when the program takes to the racecourse in the fall, it will be the only Division-I men’s cross country program in the state. Despite holding a monopoly on the sport in Nevada, Elias still holds recruits to high standards if they want to become a member of the Pack.
“I expect them to be good students, and all that applies,” Elias said. “I expect them to be good athletes, and all that applies. I expect them to be good human beings if they’re in my program.”
Elias only wants positive individuals in and around his program. He expects runners on the team to not only be ambassadors for the university but great representatives for the city of Reno. In addition, here is one last detail that Elias looks for in any of his athletes.
For those interested in trying out for the cross country team, open tryouts will be held over summer for those looking to earn a spot in the program.
This summer will be the first time cross country will be allowed to organize practices nationally. This is due to a recent rule change from the National Collegiate Athletics Association.
Previously, cross country programs were only allowed to gather their athletes just prior to the school year to begin preseason workouts. Now, in a similar fashion to football, cross country is permitted eight weeks of offseason workouts. Volleyball and soccer were also granted access to the eight weeks program based on the same ruling.
Elias welcomes the opportunity to use that time to train up his new program. He recognizes the significance that extra training would provide to the young team.
“This opened a can of worms that I didn’t even realize were going to be there,” Elias said. “However, it is very tempting to add some weeks of practice during the summer especially because I’m going to have a brand new team,”.
When Elias referenced a “can of worms” he did it in a joking fashion, but the logistical side of having the team on campus over the summer does raise concerns. For starters, more money would have to be allocated for scholarships to support the students over the summer. Students would have to be enrolled in classes, plus meal plans and housing would have to be addressed. At this time, Elias is unsure if this is doable with the current budget.
The date of the program’s first race has yet to be announced, but as the season approaches more details will be released.
Ryan Freeberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.