The 2013-2014 Florida Southern College Cross Country season will be a crucial and exciting one with runner honors, carefully chosen teams and a new assistant coach.
Women’s top runner Emily LaBarbara graduated, allowing Junior Jessica Krystek, Sophomore Rebecca Levy, and Senior Alec Slamal to step up as this year’s top runners.
First-year head coach Ben Martucci leads the Moccasin cross country and track teams. He was promoted in January after previously serving as the assistant coach.
Martucci believes the preseason is crucial. Once the student-athletes were back on campus, workouts proceeded and were followed by speed work and longer runs.
“The workouts need to be timely and you have to allow for a specific amount of rest,” Martucci said “We’re peaking towards Conference time, so we’re seeing where they are at right now. Preparing is kind of tuning up the runners in order to race and get back to their racing form.”
Being an FSC alumnus, Martucci is close in age to many of the runners, which allows them to relate on a level that not all coaches have the opportunity to.
Organization and communication are two vital components in coaching. Martucci says he has created his own system to create a balance.
“I think there is a newfound respect for the coaches here,” Martucci said. “It’s about understanding student athletes to coaches. I think this year will be much better than in the past now that I have a base and a standard system working.”
Working alongside Martucci is new Assistant Coach Rebecca Wroten. Born and raised in Lakeland, Wroten also attended FSC. She played on the first Moccasin women’s soccer team, but encountered injuries which took her out of the sport.
Wroten says she wanted answers for the injuries, which led her to study injury prevention. To stay active, she took an interest in running and participated in several marathons.
Wroten went on to earn a master’s degree in human movement with a concentration in corrective exercise. She later opened Haka Fitness in Lakeland. The facility focuses on post-rehab, returning to performance, physical therapy and pain reduction.
“I didn’t want to be in pain anymore,” Wroten said. “To think that I could come in and build that solid foundation that an athlete can build the future of their game on is really rewarding.”
Last season, Wroten joined the staff as a volunteer strength and conditioning coach for cross country and track.
“That allows me to pre-screen them for the likelihood of injury,” Wroten said. “I can see where they have breakdowns in performance and movement, and then I know how to target those athletes and strengthen them the correct way for their particular needs.”
Wroten recruited a majority of this year’s new women runners while Martucci was in charge of the men’s recruits.
There are eight new women, including Molly Price and Emilie Flament. On the men’s side, there are five new runners, including Bobby Ormsby and Jon Moses.
“As a freshman, I am really looking forward to my first season of collegiate running, and contributing to this championship caliber team,” Moses said. “I am also trying to learn as much as I can from our senior captains, David Tomchinsky and Chris Yanichko in their last season of cross country.”
In joining the recruiting process, Wroten says she wanted to establish a team bond, have a positive attitude, and have the players encourage each other as a team.
“It was an exciting process to have the opportunity to go out and build a new team,” Wroten said. “I was looking for athletes that really had heart, who were driven, and the ones who I felt had a general attitude of positivity.”
Martucci says he has a solid plan laid out to build the women’s team back up.
He feels as though he and Wroten work well together, and complement each other. Martucci has hopes for the men’s team to make it to Nationals and place in the top 20.
“I have high goals, and until they are met, we’re not going to be satisfied, so we have to keep pushing forward,” Martucci said.
The first cross country meet takes place next Saturday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. at the USF Invitational.
“We have a chance this year to set the bar of excellence for the program even higher,” Senior Chris Trebilcock said. “This group won’t be satisfied with second. We all came to Florida Southern to be champions, now is the time to define ourselves.”