By Michael Evanko
The Youngstown State University cross-country team returns for the 2019 season, looking to keep the momentum of winning another Horizon League championship.
The Penguins won the championship in two out of the past three seasons.
Coach Brian Gorby emphasized the expectations for the season as winning the Horizon League championship or bust.
“Every year, the standard around here for us has always been championships,” Gorby said.
Junior Derek Basinger agreed.
“I think that based on our position and our results in the Horizon League the past several years that a championship is always going to be our primary goal,” Basinger said.
This year’s team is unique compared to past years’ teams. In YSU’s 2018 Horizon League championship season, the men’s roster had five seniors while the women’s team had two.
Both teams don’t have any seniors and have a combined nine juniors on the roster.
Although neither the men’s and women’s team has seniors, Basinger and Nicole Squatrito are up to the leadership challenge.
“I’ve taken on more of a leadership role,” Basinger said. “It is also weird, though, not having the older guys to go to maybe, so it’s an adjustment. It’s fun, though. I enjoy it.”
Squatrito is excited not only for this year but also for when she is a senior.
“It kind of feels great because … we’re very young, and that means whatever we do this year, we’re going to come back next year 10 times stronger,” Squatrito said.
With inexperience on both teams, the early season is a key time for the underclassmen to get valuable runs under their belt.
“The first part of the year is going to be kind of a learning curve a little bit, and then hopefully [we’ll] gain some experience and really get our season rolling kind of going into October,” assistant coach Eric Rupe said. “So these early meets in September, [we] kind of learn from them and take that in October.”
YSU participated in the Tommy Evans Invitational in Akron, Ohio, Sep. 7. The Tommy Evans Invitational is a 4-mile race for the men, which is different than its routine 8-kilometer race distance. For the women’s team, the race was its standard 5-kilometer distance.
In 2018, the men’s team finished in first place while the women’s finished fourth. Juniors Tyler Polman and Basinger led YSU, finishing in 10th and 12th place with times of 20:12 and 20:21 respectively.
On the women’s team, juniors Mackenzie Scott and Squatrito finished in 10th and 16th place with times of 18:45 and 18:51 in 2018.
On Saturday, Sept. 7, The men finished fourth out of 7, and the women, also finished fourth out of 7. Tyler Polman, Derrick Basinger, Morgan Cole and Nicole Squatrito each finished in the top 15 overall.
The cross-country team will take part in the All-Ohio Cross Country Championships on Sept. 28.