The Wolfpacker

September 2015

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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64 ■ THE WOLFPACKER The Wolfpack's top two runners, Sam Parsons and Graham Crawford, ran fourth and fifth at the conference race, losing to a trio of All-Americans, and Parsons quali- fied as an individual for the NCAA Cham- pionships with a fourth-place finish at the regional meet. "I thought the ACC Championships was an incredible race by the team," Geiger said. "At the regionals, I don't think it was so much that we weren't sharp, but that those other teams were all really good and ran at a very high level." With Parsons, a redshirt junior, and Crawford, a fifth-year senior, returning along with all the central players from last year's squad, Geiger expects his patience and belief in his athletes will be rewarded in 2015. The Wolfpack will still be young, but much more of a veteran team because of last year's experience. Parsons, who was the Wolfpack's lead runner in all five varsity races a year ago, finished a respectable 63rd at the NCAA Championships. Crawford built on his ex- cellent cross country season by earning outdoor track and field All-America honors in the 1,500 meters. He put an exclama- tion mark on his season with a 3:38.49 in the 1,500 at the season-ending Portland Twilight Meet, missing Ryan Hill's school record of 3:38.36 by a mere 0.13 seconds. In addition to Parsons and Crawford, the Wolfpack welcomes back redshirt junior Sam Roberson, and redshirt sophomores Bakri Abushouk, Sebastian Hanson and Nick Link, each of whom learned valuable lessons from last fall's unhappy regional finish. "Between Sam, a national qualifier indi- vidually, and Graham, that's the foundation for our team," Geiger said. "Then we bring back Sam Roberson, Bakri, Sibby and Nick with a year of experience under their belts. We're older and more mature, and hope- fully they'll be able to deal with running at that distance now that they have some experience with it." Behind the Wolfpack's six returning starters, last year's freshman class, a deep and talented group, will push for spots in the lineup. Three from that group — Pat- rick Sheehan, Alec Thomas and Aaron Thomas — actually lined up in varsity races a year ago, Sheehan in the NCAA Southeast Regional and the Thomas twins in the NCAA Pre-National meet. Those three will be sophomores in 2015. Zack Langston, Wyatt Maxey, Jon Knight and John Hagood, meanwhile, will be redshirt freshmen. Geiger believes all seven are capable of contributing. A quartet of incoming freshmen also could make an impact in 2015, assuming they can adjust to the jump in distance. Ben Barrett (Oklahoma) and Tanis Bald- win (North Carolina) were state champions as seniors in 2014, while Kyle Christ and Philip Hall both were top-10 finishers in the North Carolina 4-A state championships. "We've had true freshman make an im- pact in the past, but it's usually been a Ryan Hill or an Andy Smith," Geiger said. "We're not just going to throw someone's freshman eligibility away, but if someone is in our top seven as a freshman, he's lin- ing up and racing. Each one of those guys needs to have it in his brain that I'm not just going to redshirt this year; I'm going to line up." NC State sets its goals high in cross country, with the final being a top-25 fin- ish at the NCAA Championships. The Wolfpack has achieved that 21 times dat- ing back to 1984, including nine national top-10 finishes with numerous conference championships and All-Americans leading the way. "We've been in the top 25 several times," Geiger said. "The expectation of the coach- ing staff and the guys on this team is that we're going to accomplish that again." ■ Noting The Pack • Sam Parsons' fourth-place finish at the ACC Championships a year ago marked the eighth time in the last nine years that the Wolfpack had a run- ner place in the top five of the men's race, and the 24th time in the last 26 years. • The 2014 season marked the first time since 2008 that no NC State men's runner earned All- America honors. The Wolfpack men have earned All-America honors 28 times since 1980. Runners To Watch Sam Parsons, redshirt junior — In 2014, Par- sons blossomed into a national-caliber runner, lead- ing the Wolfpack in every varsity race and finishing fourth at both the ACC Championships and NCAA Southeast Regional to earn an individual at-large bid to the NCAA Championships. Graham Crawford, fifth-year senior — A three-time all-conference and two-time all-region performer in cross country, as well as a two-time All-ACC runner and four-time NCAA qualifier in track, Crawford enters his final season of cross country poised to help lead the Wolfpack back to the national stage. Sebastian Hanson, red - shirt sophomore — Hanson took a huge leap forward in his third year in the program and his second as a varsity per- former in cross country, consistently running third for the Pack and just missing all-conference status. HANSON ■ Key Meets • Notre Dame Invitational, Oct. 2, South Bend, Ind. — The second meet of the season should provide strong competition while challenging teams to get off to a fast start on the relatively flat course. • Wisconsin adidas Invitational, Oct. 16, Madi- son, Wis. — NC State switched from the NCAA Pre- National race to the Wisconsin Invitational this season because the stacked lineup in Madison provides ample opportunity to earn criteria points, which the NCAA uses in awarding possible at-large team bids to the NCAA Championships. • ACC Championships, Oct. 30, Tallahassee, Fla. — The ACC now features highly ranked teams from four different NCAA regionals. This is significant because teams now can score criteria points at the conference championship race. Notre Dame (Great Lakes), Syracuse (Northeast), Boston College (Northeast) and Florida State (South) all field solid to excellent programs from other regions, giving NC State one last chance to en - hance its case for a possible at-large bid to the NCAA Championships. Fifth-year senior Graham Crawford is a three- time all-conference and two-time all-regional performer. PHOTO BY CHERYL TREWORGY Newcomer To Watch Tanis Baldwin — The East Henderson High School graduate finished his prep career as Dye-'s No. 40 cross country runner in the land. He won the North Carolina Class 3A state championship in cross country as a senior and totaled nine crowns in track and cross country. His 1,500-meter time of 3:56.53 ran in June was the 43rd fastest for a prep runner this year.

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