The 2013 Park University men's cross country team boasts one of its deepest rosters in program history with a total of 16 runners on the squad, including a former NAIA All-American and three others that have experience at the NAIA Cross Country National Championships.
"We have certainly grown from last year," said Park head coach Brian Renshaw, starting his 23rd year at the helm of the Pirates. "We have more depth adding some talented freshmen and transfer recruits. We will be much better with that depth to help us out."
Leading the Pirates for his senior season is three-time national qualifier and Park's all-time fastest runner in the 8K, Daniel Tubei. The Kapsabet, Kenya native had a disappointing end to last year placing 34th at the national meet after an eighth-place finish in 2011 earning NAIA All-America honors for the second-straight year running at the 2010 meet placing 18th.
Fellow Kenyan Thomas Chelulei (Kapsabet, Kenya) also returns for Park for his junior season having qualified for nationals each of his first two years placing 129th in 2012 after a 34th-place finish in 2011. Chelulei owns the Pirates' 13th-fastest time in an 8K.
"If you are going to be a decent team you have to have a front runner and we are fortunate to have both Daniel and Thomas back," added Renshaw. "A lot of teams only have one, but I feel we have two front runners. Hopefully, they have rebounded and are ready to go."
Coach Renshaw brings back a number of runners that have competed for Park at high-profile meets with seniors Christian Hoffman (St. Joseph, Mo.), Anthony Stasiak (Liberty, Mo.), and Arthur Vollbrecht (North Kansas City, Mo.) all scoring at either the AMC or NAIA Championships. Hoffman earned a spot on the AMC All-Conference team with a 10th-place finish.
Junior Darren Vest (Antrim, N.H.) and sophomore Peter Franck (Wentzville, Mo.) also ran at the AMC Championships last year while NAIA qualifier James Straubel is the only member from Park's 2012 second-place AMC squad lost to graduation.
A pair of track and field student-athletes in junior Andrew Parker (Gladstone, Mo.) and sophomore Theodore McCord (Perris, Calif.) adds their talents to the cross country program for the fall.
Two junior college transfers join the Pirates having both earned all-conference accolades while competing last year with Corey Craig (Fruitland, Idaho) at Treasure Valley Community College and Kurt Vukas (Blue Springs, Mo.) at Johnson County Community College.
Craig joins Hoffman and Vest as second-generation runners for Park as all three had their respective fathers run on the same team back in the 80's.
Rounding out the program are five freshmen Dexter Acsenvil (Kansas City, Mo.), Miguel Garza (Mission, Texas), Akwy Gawg (Gladstone, Mo.), Wesley Jensen (Raytown, Mo.), and Jacob Olsen (Platte City, Mo.).
"We are ahead of where we were compared to last year in terms of training. Even our newcomers are ahead of where I thought they would be and we need to as going after the defending conference champion (Columbia) is not going to be easy."
The Pirates begin the 2013 campaign receiving votes in the NAIA Men's Cross Country Coaches' Top 25 Preseason poll with their opening meet Saturday (Aug. 31) at the Bob Timmons Classic in Lawrence, Kan., hosted by the University of Kansas.