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The Florida Southern College Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams competed in the NCAA South Region Championship in Huntsville, Ala. on Nov. 3. The meet told two very different stories for the men’s and women’s teams.

Chris Yanichko led the Mocs to a sixth-place finish, placing ninth overall and narrowly missing a chance to compete in the National Division II Championship.

“It’s a big surprise to everyone. It was one of the closest finishes I’ve ever seen,” Assistant Coach Ben Martucci said.

Martucci has been incredibly supportive of the men, especially after being a teammate just two short years ago and transitioning into his assistant, and eventual head coach position.

“I’ve been in the system and I know how it works. With my age factor, I’m their friend, but they still respect me as a coach and get over that friend factor,” Martucci said. “There are no problems.”

“He was my teammate my freshman year,” David Tomchinsky, junior, said. “He’s been great. If he needs to tell us something, he will. We have so much respect for him. We have the friend side of Ben, and the professional side. The only negative thing about this season was we didn’t have recruits, and that’s not Ben’s fault.”

Senior Emily LaBarbera of the women’s cross country team was disappointed with the team’s thirteenth-place finish.

“It being my senior year, it was a lot less than I expected,” LaBarbera said. “…I wanted to be an All-American. I would have had to come in the top 30 of Nationals, and I didn’t even make it to Nationals.”

LaBarbera hopes to work as a cross country coach, and has contacted Texas A&M and Georgia Southern University to apply for graduate assistant positions.

“I think that [the teams are] getting there. I think in years, it will be better,” LaBarbera said. “I think it’s going to be the coach’s job and the athlete’s job to love each other and have respect for the teams, no matter what the performance entails.”

“I think those two people [Martucci and Rebecca Wroten, the women’s strength and conditioning coach] are young enough and passionate enough to build this program to what it was,” LaBarbera said.

Despite the lack of chemistry between teammates and coach, LaBarbera has a positive outlook on her future.

“I’m always going to give a hundred and ten percent,” LaBarbera said. “I’m really going to try to be as good as I can be in track. I would like to get closer to breaking 18 minutes in the 5K. I think it would really help me confidence-wise, to build up and have a strong end to the season and to my career.”

While LaBarbera looks to track season, the men’s team is still looking back at regionals and wondering what could have been.

“It’s tough because we worked all season knowing we were going to go to nationals,” Yanichko said. “We were so confident, and to come up short like that really caught us off guard. We want to win regionals next year. We all ran our best, but it just wasn’t enough.”

Tomchinsky agreed that the failure to win the conference was not the result of a lack of effort.

“We ran our best, we gave it all and we just came up short. We’re still a young team,” Tomchinsky said. “We’re being optimistic. The morale is up. I’d like to have five guys in the top 10, win regionals, and qualify for nationals. Destroy conference, destroy regionals and qualify for nationals is what we want to do.”

Martucci joins his runners in anticipating the promise that the 2013 season will bring.

“This is a down year, but we have a very bright future ahead of us,” Martucci said. “We’re expanding. Looking ahead as the young cross country team that we are, we’re looking to do big things next year.”

As both the men’s and women’s teams move forward from 2012, they will do so without the services of Rebecca Marsh who will not be returning for the 2013 season.


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