It's no secret that every Division 1 sports program wants to make every recruiting class the best they've had. This year, Gonzaga men's cross country may be able to stake that claim without much disagreement.
Several talented freshmen have joined GU's squad, some of whom were redshirted in order to protect their eligibility. Instead of stressing about various competitions, it is more beneficial in the long run to spend their first year getting used to other aspects of college, such as being away from home, living in a dorm and balancing schoolwork.
“We try to, in the perfect world, redshirt all our freshmen,” said Pat Tyson, director of cross country and track and field.
Five of the six freshmen were redshirted after they began training at GU in mid-August. As redshirts, they are required to pay for their own travel and accommodations during races, but they still receive all the benefits that GU athletes are offered on campus.
They also do not race in the GU jersey or contribute to the team’s official scoring. But they still add to the dynamic of the team and the success of the program since they are participating in workouts and everyday practices.
“They’re kind of pushing other guys forward just based off of doing the right things and having a good attitude,” redshirt junior Stefan Bradley said.
A specific freshman to take note of is Riley Moore. Originally, he was going to redshirt, but the coaches decided to pull that status in October for the Nuttycombe Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin. Moore ended up being the team’s fifth scorer and placing 135th overall.
He also competed in the West Coast Conference championships in Los Angeles on Nov. 1, where he placed 22nd overall, was the team's seventh man and won WCC Men's Freshman of the Year.
A native of Richland, Washington, Moore considered attending Southern Utah University but chose GU because of the talented coaching staff and the culture of the team.
“There’s never a boring day,” Moore said. “It’s basically just like having a whole lot of brothers.”
In addition to Moore, there are five other freshmen who Tyson is proud to call members of the team: Myles Bach, Evan Bates, Ben Brown, Jackson Lyne and Kyle Radosevich.
All of these athletes were immediately dialed in once training started. They didn’t need the typical transition period, nor did they face any hesitation in discovering their role on the team. They jumped right into the intense life of a college athlete with hard work and dedication at their center, which also helped to rejuvenate the team’s returners. Tyson knows each freshman well and appreciates their individual skills.
“Just a shout out to the best recruiting class in Gonzaga history,” Tyson said.
Collectively, the incoming freshmen have already been successful with their high school running careers. Every one of them has broken 9 minutes, 20 seconds in the 2-mile race, which is proof of their greatness.
As for the start of their collegiate careers, they have only competed in a few races.
The top runners on the team consist of sophomore James Mwaura and redshirt junior Peter Hogan. But Moore has been added to the group as well as redshirt sophomore Cullen McEachern.
However, all of the freshmen have the opportunity and ability to be one of the top five scorers sometime down the line. When the upperclassmen graduate, the team will still have depth.
Despite an array of talent across the roster, GU has never made it to the NCAA Championships. Each year, they welcome a wide range of good recruits with a couple of great runners mixed in, but this incoming class consists of solely great runners. With this group, the team might break that boundary and accomplish the goal of reaching the national meet.
“It’s just great having the younger guys and the freshmen really assisting in our journey and our development,” Bradley said.
The freshmen are the beginning of something new. They have the next four to five years to improve and continue elevating the program.
“I’m just looking forward to watching our program grow,” Moore said. “Because we pretty much started a long time ago with nothing and we turned it into a really solid program.”