Aug. 29, 2012
When Auburn cross country opens the 2012 season on Saturday at Troy, head coach Mark Carroll’s group will look to several young runners to lead the charge toward an SEC championship.
“We’ve got two sophomores in Niklas Buhner and Kane Grimster back after good freshman seasons and Samuel Mueller, who had a very good SEC championship,” Carroll said. “We’ve also got Griffin Jaworski, who will be a sophomore and has had a year of training. I think both Griffin and Samuel will be stepping up. We’re hoping that those two can step up and fill the void left by the graduation of Joby Peake and also Jeff Sanders.”
Both Grimster (Victoria, Australia) and Buhner (Plettenburg, Germany) enjoyed strong freshman seasons, including a 14th-place finish by Grimster at the SEC Championships.
“We were fourth at the south region meet last year and I think the guys are excited and hoping to be a top-three team at the region this year,” Carroll said.
With a squad anchored by four sophomores, Carroll is hoping the youthful core is ready for a step up in performance after a year of continuous training. The Tigers will also be counting on Providence transfer Francis Hernandez for production.
“My philosophy has never been to put a freshman on tremendous mileage,” Carroll said. “I think their training should be progressive. I had a young group last year, and now they have had an injury-free year of training and they are all progressing. The fact that they have been able to train and progress is what will ultimately help us improve in 2012.”
The women’s team received a boost from an unlikely source in 2011, but Carroll is looking for an even better season from junior Alissa Fisher (Huntsville, Ala.).
“Last year, Alissa [Fisher] appeared at my office and asked to walk on,” Carroll said. “She came out and had a fabulous year. She scored at the SEC indoor meet and then scored in both the 5k and 10k at the SEC Outdoor Championships. There was a little bit of a learning curve for her, because she’s new to the sport, but she handled it very well. She’s had a year of training now and I expect big things from her in year two.”
Also expected to contend on the women’s team are junior Lizzy Briasco (Forest Hills, N.Y.) and incoming freshman Sage Blackwell (Fairhope, Ala.).
After opening the season at Troy, Auburn hosts its lone home event on September 7. The first big test of the season comes on September 29 at Louisville, also the site of the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships on November 17.