After bringing home the NAIA Men's National Cross Country Championship in 2004, Virginia Intermont College begins the 2005 campaign as the association's favorite. In the NAIA' Pre Season Poll, the Cobras are ranked first with 175 points and all seven first place votes, followed by Aquinas College's (Mich.) 168 points and Southern Oregon's 157 points, respectively.
Despite the completion of eligibility of front runners Fernando Cabada and Corey Duquette, third and seventh nationally in 2005, and the loss of regional champion David Cheromei, Intermont will rely on a strongly developing squad that looks to pick-up where last year's team left off.
Leading the Cobras in 2005 will be the All-American duo of Ondrej Puskar and James Mousseau. Senior Mousseau will lead the charge this year after his 18th place national cross country finish and a disappointing injury-filled 2005 track season. Sophomore roommate Puskar, 21st last year, will build on strength and experience after earning All-American honors in the indoor 3,000-meters last year and qualifying for the national outdoor championships in the both 5k and 10k and improving his best times in all events from 1500m to the 10k.
VIC returns crucial experience with Nick Glimsdahl and Mudasar Haidat, runners on the seven-man national championship squad who both finished just outside of All-American honors as a sophomore and a freshman, respectively, in 37th and 58th. Haidat, a native of Alexandria, Va. finished his 2005 track campaign with a national runner-up finish in the NAIA Marathon, while Glimsdahl improved to an NAIA Top 10 3k steeplechase mark of 9:22.
Also building on past VIC success will be 2004 national team alternates Pat Marion, Jamie Millage, Elkana Chepsiror and Josh Smith. Marion improved dramatically in 2005 qualifying for the NAIA nationals in the steeplechase and improving his best time to 9:16, while Chepsiror earned individual national titles in both the indoor and outdoor 800-meters.
2004 cross country red-shirt Steeve Gabart of Miami, Fl. looks to add strength and depth to VIC's future after quickly developing in the course of his freshman year from a modest 4:40 high school miler into a mature 31:20 10k runner who finished fourth at the US Junior National 10k Championships in June.
New members to the Cobra cross country squad, but no strangers to VIC, include spring term transfers Jason Lewis, Russell and Matt Neff, and Jesus Chavez. All four Cobras, now nine months into VIC's developmental program, earned national qualifying marks in events ranging from 600 to 10,000-meters with Lewis earning All-American indoor honors in the 600-meters and both distance relays.
Modesto College transfer Ricky Ceuvas also looks to contribute experience to the Cobras after a successful junior college career.
VIC adds a host of young talent to provide for the future in Virginians Jeremy Cadle, Michael Chapa, Josh Stevens and Casey Kraiger. Add to that Yakima, Washington's Charles Cummings and Orlando, Florida's Alvin Charles and the Cobras look ready to reload. Cadle restarts college after a three year lay-off, while Chapa and Cummings look to red-shirt 2005 in order to build strength. The freshman duo look to become the backbone of the future Cobras based on Chapa's Virginia state high school cross country and mile titles and Cummings' state runner-up finish in the mile at 4:14, while Charles hopes to contribute to VIC immediately after posting a 9:33 high school 2-mile.
VIC also will restart its women's program in 2005 and will look for leadership from sophomore Teresa Ayers, a former member of the Lady Cobra soccer team who is now focusing on cross country and track, and second-term freshman Renata Volf, a national indoor 3,000-meter qualifier last winter. The women's program will be laying the seeds for the future with red-shirt freshman Andrea Kalmanek and incoming freshmen Amanda Gorst, Alex Po-man, Raven Pilgrim and Esther Komen.