Dayton men’s cross country team looks for repeat performance

The Dayton cross country team poses with the Atlantic 10 championship trophy on Saturday in Richmond, Va. Submitted photo
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The Dayton cross country team poses with the Atlantic 10 championship trophy on Saturday in Richmond, Va. Submitted photo

Flyers were surprise A-10 champions in 2016

The fall of 2016 was a banner season for the Dayton Flyers athletic program with women’s soccer, volleyball and men’s cross country claiming Atlantic 10 championships.

The men’s cross country team was the only surprise in that group. It was picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll. It had never won a conference title or finished higher than third in the A-10 championships.

A year later, coach Jason Ordway and his runners hope to prove that performance wasn’t a fluke.

“The men are still hungry,” Ordway said. “They want to be known as one of the best teams in the conference for distance, one of the best teams in the state. They have a lot of internal motivation, but we still have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder. We kind of came out of nowhere for a lot of people. They’ve put in a ton of really good work. Guys stayed here over the summer so they could practice and train together. It’s just been a renewed focus on the program. We’ve gone from being unknown to kind of having a target on our back this year. They want to maintain that top-three finish and compete for a title every year.”

Ordway will coach the women’s cross country and track programs as well this season. UD gave him that job in July. He takes over for Sarah Haveman, who left to take an assistant coaching job at the University of Illinois

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The men’s and women’s season begins Saturday at the Queen City Invitational 5K in West Chester.

The men’s team lost four seniors, including Hunter Johnson, who finished second overall at the A-10 championships. The team’s next three finishers at that meet — Chris Negri, Spencer Danielson and Tyler Adgalanis — return.

Negri broke his own school record (3:50.10) in the 1,500-meter race at the Jesse Owens Classic in Columbus in April, finishing sixth overall. He’ll likely be Dayton’s top runner, though Ordway said it’s hard to predict.

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“We’ve got a strong group of three or four and a really good supporting cast,” Ordway said. “It gives us depth all the way to the seventh or eighth man, which is a really good problem to have in my book. We just did an early-season workout, and they were all hanging tough right together. It’s going to be exciting to see what happens in our first race.”

The women’s team also returns a strong group. The Flyers finished second in the A-10 season. Taylor Vernot and Chloe Flora placed fourth and fifth overall, respectively. Grace McDonald placed 22nd. All three runners return.

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“A lot of upperclassmen on the women’s side have pulled through,” Ordway said, “and have solidified those top five to seven spots.”

The success of both programs is starting to pay off in recruiting. Ordway said more and more runners, “men and women are knocking on our door, reaching out to me, wanting to be a part of the program.”