Cross Country Teams Continue To Take Steps Forward

Dec. 13, 2004

Welcoming a new coaching staff that includes first-year cross country coach Michael Garrison and second-year head coach Andrew Valmon, the Maryland men's and women's cross country teams continued to adjust and closed out the 2004 season on strong notes. Sophomore Pete Hess, the ACC Freshman of the Year in 2003, was an All-Region selection and a fourth place finisher at the IC4A/ECAC Championships. Danielle Siebert had her best fall since arriving in College Park, leading the women's team throughout the postseason and nearly earning All-Region accolades.

"This program's definitely moving forward," coach Michael Garrison said. "Heading into the indoor season, all the kids have a good grasp on my system, and that's really a tough transition to make. You really saw them improve and start to jell towards the end of the season, and now it's just a matter of adjusting to the higher expectations this program has for them."

Staying local to start the year, the kids got out of the gates quickly, as both the men and women took home second place finishes at the JMU Invitational and meet victories at the ACC Pre-Meet. Hess finished in second and first place, respectively in those races, and redshirt freshman Meghan Braffet ran to second-place finishes in the team's first three races of the season.

The team faced its first stiff test of the fall when it traveled to Penn State University for the Penn State Invitational. Facing their first ranked competition of the season, the teams battled and turned some heads on their way to stellar finishes. The men finished in seventh place overall in the 38-team field, led by Peter Hess in 18th place and Adam Ambrus in 47th. The women ran their way to an 11th place finish in a 41-team field. The 1-2 punch of Meghan Braffet and Danielle Siebert finished in 27 and 38th place, respectively, with Katie Purcell (71st) and Laurel Jefferson (92nd) also posting solid performances.

Coming back home for the ACC Championships, the team carried positive momentum and looked forward to competing with more of the country's top teams. This time the team would do so in front of its home crowd at the University of Maryland Golf Course.

Both the men and women improved on their finishes in 2003. The men, seventh out of nine teams last year, took seventh place in the newly-expanded 11-team race. The women also took seventh place last season and raced to an eighth place showing out of 11 teams this year. Adam Ambrus again turned in a strong performance, leading the men with a 30th place finish and 8k time of 26:04.7. Meghan Braffet was the top women's finisher for her fifth straight race, finishing in 28th place overall with a time of 23:11.1 (6.3k).

"I think the team might have been a little shell-shocked at the ACCs," Coach Garrison said. "You definitely need a lot of maturity to run against that competition in front of your home crowd, especially with a new coach and a new program."

The teams, although they didn't qualify for the NCAA Championship meet, ran well and finished in 12th place overall at both the NCAA Regional and the IC4A/ECAC Championships. Pete Hess bounced back from the ACCs, running to a 23rd place finish at the Regional and a fourth place performance at the IC4As. Hess earned All-Region honors for finishing in the Mid-Atlantic region's top 25 and built momentum heading into the indoor and outdoor seasons and beyond.

With injuries to Braffet and Laurel Jefferson slowing the women's team toward the end of the year, Danielle Siebert posted her strongest showings of the season. The junior finished 26th overall at both the NCAA Regional and the IC4A/ECAC meet to lead the women to 11th place showings in both meets.

"Both teams definitely had good seasons," Garrison said. "They both ran with a lot of maturity, and we managed to stay pretty healthy. The expectations of the program are really starting to rise, and the kids have really adjusted to that and began to understand the kind of commitment it takes heading into the indoor season."