Jimmies men's cross country expecting to take big step forward

Aug. 29—JAMESTOWN — Heading into the 2023 men's cross-country season, the University of Jamestown is going to be coached by the Director of track and field and cross country Jarvis Jelen for a full season for the first time.

"It's a massive difference, coming into this fall versus jumping in last spring," Jelen said. "Last spring was just survival getting through, both Connor Salisbury and I just kind of figuring things out. I was mainly observing, learning about the school, learning about the program and people in it and trying to figure out the best path forward with practical needs and practical goals and vision for that....This summer's been really good to really build and really recruit for the future and have our cross country teams prepared for the fall."

Heading into the Jimmies season-opening meet, the Augie Twilight meet, on Friday, Sept. 1, Jelen and his team have sky-high expectations. Jelen said he could not pick one breakout candidate instead saying the entire team will take big steps forward this year.

"We're very excited," Jelen said. "We're gonna be much better than we have been in a while on the men's and women's side. We're in a good place right now, we haven't had our first meet yet but we'll start getting our first experience next Friday at the Augie Twilight and training was really solid for a group over the summer, not as good for another group. But we had a really good week of training and team camp and we have a lot of momentum even for those that weren't training as well."

Last year, the Jimmies finished 10th in the GPAC Championships with their highest finisher being Drew Hjelmstad who finished 50th with a time of 28:33.45. Hjelmstad said he wants to improve his time this year and his best skill is his competitiveness. The junior said his goals for this season are to take steps forward as a team.

"In order to have a big year, we're going to have to work really hard," Hjelmstad said. "A lot of the teams that are ahead of us now, we definitely need to outwork our competition and we've been doing that so far. We gotta work as a team."

After finishing 10th in the GPAC Championships, the Jimmies have been picked to finish in 10th again this year. Hjelmstad said he believes his team should be ranked higher than they are heading into the season. Jelen said his team will be significantly better this season than they were last year.

"(The confidence comes from) knowing what we need to do in training and when the athletes execute I know where we're at. I just know where we're at, I know where we used to be and we know what we need to do in training. The more each person that gets the training done, we know a baseline expectation for them and put all that together and we were substantially ahead of where we were fitness-wise in the past."

The Jimmies hosted a cross-country team camp in late June, which Jelen said was attended by recruits from future years including 2024. Although he said a few current Jimmies help out at the camp, Jelen said it was mostly staffed by himself and head coach Jim Clark. Jelen said he is currently recruiting for the 2024 season. This year, Jelen said he expects his team's graduate assistant and runner Michael Ocasek to play a tremendous leadership role within the squad. He said he expects different people to step up and lead as the season goes along.