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Bruins continue to aim higher


Preview — Second-year coach Randy Dalzell expects GFU to ascend in the NWC standings

With 23 new runners, gone are the days when George Fox was unable to field a full team throughout the year.

The Bruins made strides under first-year head coach Randy Dalzell a year ago, especially the men, who moved up to fifth in the Northwest Conference. With added depth and some high-level talent coming on board, the future appears increasingly bright.

The George Fox men return just about every key contributor from last year’s team, including first-team all-league performer Joseph Pia, and Kody Tarbell, who was the team’s top finisher at the regional meet.

Despite his success, Pia endured a difficult year, suffering his only asthma attack of the season on the final stretch of the regional meet, then a broken fibula that knocked him out of the track season.

Dalzell expects Tarbell to be the team’s top runner until Pia, who got a late start on training due to the injury, gets back up to speed.

“But by the end of the season you’ll see him right where he was last year when he became a first-team all-conference guy,” Dalzell said. “I think he’ll be back there again.”

Also returning to fill key roles are Kyle Dreibelbis, Bryant Quinn, Michah Tate and Aaron Molstad, with newcomers Nathan Wiggins, Sherwood High School grad Cody Thompson and Yamhill-Carlton product Zach Bibb expected to fight for the remaining spots.

The Bruins enter the season ranked No. 10 in the west region and will open the season Saturday at Linfield.

“I don’t think we’re going to be a national-qualifying team, but I think we’re going to get closer,” Dalzell said. “They just need to take that next step from being competitive in the conference to competitive in the region.”

The GFU women received an immediate upgrade when Newberg High School standout Erin Sanders committed to the team.

Sanders ran cross country for the first time as a senior, but placed 21st at the 6A state meet and Dalzell expects her to step in right away and assume the No. 1 role.

“She’s done some fantastic training over the summer and she looks great,” Dalzell said. “She’s going to be a very competitive and a fine college runner. She’ll be one of the best runners in the conference.”

Dalzell is not sure if two of his top runners from a year ago will be able to compete, as Kelsey Prentice will be serving as a student teacher this fall and Brooke Nolte will be unable to practice with the team due to her schedule as a nursing student. It remains to be seen if they will be able to train on their own and join the team to compete on Saturdays.

Dalzell is excited about the return of Sara McKenzie and the addition of track standout Katie Dyk. He expects McKenzie to push for the No. 2 position, while Dyk will likely be in the next tier of runners with freshmen Rachel Gibbs and Taylor Suwa.

A host of runners, including returner Kelly Toms and newcomers Emily Dobrinski, Codi Morton and Emily Veer are expected to battle for the final two starting spots.

“I think the women will move up a couple spots in the conference and regional standings,” Dalzell said. “I expect to build the competitive nature of the program to a higher level. Instead of just showing up for the conference meet, we’d like to see if we can finish in the top half of the conference.”