ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. – Coach Marshall Leonard and NC Wesleyan's Cross Country team is celebrating their record-breaking 2018 recruiting class with 17 runners coming into the program for the 2018-2019 school year. Coming off the program's best season in school history, Coach Leonard plans for another record-setting season.
Last season was a restart of the men's program after a one year stint in 2010, and the team performed admirably with a 7th place finish (out of 11 teams) at the 2017 USA South Conference Championships.
The expectations for this year's men's team is extremely high as Coach Leonard has brought in some very talented runners from Virginia to Florida, and highlighted with the following runners: Christian Tippette of Rocky Mount, Connor Hayes of Daleville, Virginia, Thomas Guadelupe-Johnson of Garner, NC, Isaac Hall of Southport, NC, and Terethen Parker of Hollywood, FL. Additionally, Coach Leonard brought in local talent out of Rocky Mount to join the men's program and they include Keyonte Williams, Jeshon Smith and Jason McKinnon.
"It is important that we pursue and get our local talent," said Coach Leonard. "If we show that we can be successful and have fun, the athletes will want to be part of our program."
Tippette said that he is excited about getting ready for the start of competition. "I'm ready for this team to take the next step for the cross country program and NC Wesleyan. I'm ready to win."
Under Coach Leonard's leadership the women's team finished the 2017 season with the best season in the school's history. After three years of winless seasons, Coach Leonard inspired the team to wins over D1 and D2 teams.
"The women really worked hard and put in the work to find success, and it paid off at the end of the season as each female ran their personal best," Coach Leonard commented. This season, Leonard will be bringing in talented runners coming out of Maryland and is highlighted with: Karlee Bjorstrom of Wake Forest, NC, Olivia Pittman of Raleigh, NC, Alyssa Donaldson of Holly Springs, NC, and Michelle Sackney-Ansah of Clinton, MD. Mixing this new talent with the returners of Sarah Grossman, Hannah Ivester, Maria Gaspar, and Samantha Valeros, the team is expecting to build on their momentum from last season.
"I'm excited to make this the best season yet," said Grossman, who is entering her senior campaign. "I want to run my best season of my career with an awesome team."
This season's team will be making trips to Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida to run. Wesleyan's Cross Country teams will be racing at the Disney Classic in Florida on the ESPN campus in October. After the race they will spend the rest of the day exploring Magic Kingdom and bonding with each other.
"Our team is a family and we want to enjoy experiences like Disney World with our family. This is going to be a great weekend and we expect to make this trip every year," Leonard said. He continued by stating, "I am excited about the season, and cannot wait to get started. Our runners have been working hard this summer and I want to see them find the success that comes with hard work."
Head Cross Country Coach Marshall Leonard has also named Tevin Richardson as men's and women's volunteer assistant coach.
Leonard coached Richardson at Nash Central High School where he was a 4 time letter winner, and a 4 time all-conference and all-regional runner. Richardson finished 3rd in the 1000 meter Indoor State Championships and 2nd in the 800 meters at the Outdoor State Championships. He was also a 23rd place overall individual finisher in the cross country states while at Nash Central.
While at ECU, Richardson recorded the school's fastest times of the year in the 600 and 800 meter run.
He is graduating with his Business Administration Degree from ECU in 2019 and attended Nash Central from 2007-2011.