September marks the beginning of another wonderful school year here at Bates College, and along with the inevitable changing of the leaves and brisker temperatures comes the rekindling of that dormant Bobcat pride. The Garnet and Black will be out in full force this fall, entering into various forms of athletic competition in the notoriously grueling NESCAC. I’m here to preview the simple and ancient sport of competitive running.

The Bates men’s cross country team has always been a hallmark of Bobcat athletics, perennially holding its own in New England competition and always threatening to send runners to Nationals. The men are coming off a stellar eighth place finish at the 2014 New England Regional Championships last year.

Senior captain Allen Sumrall ’16, who is optimistic about the upcoming season, will lead the men’s team. “Though at first glance we may not seem to have much potential this season, a bit of digging can reveal that we may just surprise people,” said Sumrall, who finished in second place with a time of 19:27 at the annual Class Wave meet with Colby on Saturday, which Bates lost by a close margin of 62-48.

The misleading first glance that Sumrall ’16 mentioned is perhaps due to the fact that Bates is not returning three of their top four runners from last year. John Stansel and Michael Creedon both graduated, and Zach Magin ’18 is out for the season with a pelvis injury. However, Sumrall clued me in to the great strides that have been made this past offseason by Taylor Saucier ’16, who was the second finisher for Bates this weekend, and fifth overall with a time of 19:33. Look for Saucier and Sumrall to be top finishers throughout the fall and potential qualifiers for the Nationals. The solid core of runners behind them, Gregg Heller ’16 Joe Doyle ’17, Evan Ferguson-Hull ’17, Mike Horowicz ’17, Bryant Perkins ’16, Ben Tonelli ’18, and Matt Morris ’18 will compete to fill out the remaining five scoring spots in some combination throughout the season.

Coach Al Fereshetian has brought in another solid first-year class, and the opinions of captain Sumrall suggest that they will continue to contribute and uphold the positive culture of the team, a culture that seems to be omnipresent amongst Bobcat sports teams in general.

“The first year-class is shaping up well. They’re all great guys that have very quickly assimilated into the team,” Sumrall said. “They have been establishing some solid foundational training and races, but jumping into the top seven will probably be a challenge for them this season.” Coach Fereshetian echoed this take, commenting, “A good first-year class could add some surprises, but it will be difficult for any to jump right into the top group.”

Fereshetian is entering his 20th season as the Bates men’s cross country team coach, and as is the nature of someone who has a passion for their vocation, the coach is still stoked for the season. “There will be a lot of development within the team this year and I know that they have set their goals and expectations very high, but they also know that to build the ladder they will need to achieve those one day and one step at a time. I am very excited to watch it unfold and see all the surprises that will undoubtedly occur in pursuit of those goals.”

The Sports Editors are giving the team a stock down label for the season, because of the losses of Stansel and Creedon to graduation, and Magin to injury, but readers should consider it a cautious down vote. The Bobcats will still be competitive, and with a well-oiled program like the one Fereshetian has, we all could be pleasantly surprised.