COLUMBUS, Ohio – Under the guidance of fourth year head coach Dustin Iacovone, the men's and women's cross country team features a combined eight experienced runners from central Ohio.
Six newcomers join two returners for the 2018 squad. Headlining the program is sophomore Aaron Kennelly, whose times contributed regularly last season. The Westfall High School grad, who was named a NJCAA Academic All-American and a USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week, has a shot at competing for an Athletic All-American selection. "Aaron has significantly improved from last season," said Coach Iacovone. "He has what it takes-he's fast, ambitious, and composed."
Anas Nur (Hilliard/Hilliard Davidson HS) is Iacovone's number two runner. "Anas comes from a great high school program so he's used to some higher mileage and intense workouts," Iacovone said. "His consistency and leadership are an asset to our program. If he and Aaron can run together we'll have a great one and two runner."
According to Iacovone, Reed Farmer is another Hilliard Davidson product with similar qualities to Anas. "He's a leader, who is able to transition easily into the demands of college running because of his experience." Reed was a middle distance runner in high school and is returning to running after taking a year off between high school and now. "He's fast and the past couple weeks he has been able to maintain that speed over a longer distance. That will be the biggest challenge for him this season is the ability to keep his speed over an 8k race."
Laithe Abu-Obeid (Galloway/Franklin Heights HS) is setting himself up for a stronger sophomore campaign. According to Iacovone, "He's similar to Reed in that he has great top end speed. It's going to be all about maintaining that speed over a longer race." Iacovone feels lucky to have him on his team. "He's a positive influence for the newcomers."
Kyle Roach (Pickerington/Pickerington North HS) is hardworking athlete who brings a lot of enthusiasm to the program. "Kyle doesn't have as much formal experience as his teammates but he keeps up with Reed and Laithe," Iacovone said. "He's impressed me this season and has seen huge growth over the summer. He'll be anywhere from 3rd to 5th on our team."
Two recent additions to the team are Dylan Williams (London/London HS) and Nickolas Caiazza (Hilliard/Hilliard Davidson HS). Iacovone believes they are both good runners with potential. "They give us more depth and they will challenge Laithe, Kyle and Reed. Their mileage was lower compared to everyone else but adding workouts along with the mileage means they will only get faster."
This season, the athletics department is sponsoring an individual female runner. Maribel Nava (Columbus/Columbus North International HS) is a hardworking athlete who has set high expectations for herself this season. "Her goal is to break her high school PR which I think she will do before the season ends," said Iacovone. "She loves being around the team and running with people. She's another athlete that comes to practice, works hard and has a good attitude about it."
Coach Iacovone concludes that the 2018 team has the potential to be one of best teams he's coached. "I'm happy with the athletes on my team. I couldn't have asked for a better group of student-athletes. They are becoming closer to each other and becoming friends. Everyone on the team has seen huge improvements over the last month. I'm excited about this team and to watch them improve as the season goes on."
The Cougars will be running in five meets prior to the Region XII Championship in late October, including hosting the Columbus State Cougar Invitational on Sept. 22 at the Delaware Campus.