MARSHALL - The rosters have yet to be released and the athletes don't have their uniforms yet, but yes, Southwest Minnesota State University will compete in men's and women's cross country for the 2012 season.
On Wednesday, SMSU head coach Nate Wolf said he has 7-10 women who have said they will run for the team, as well as 9-11 men. He hopes to add a couple more men and women to the teams before the start of fall practice.
Wolf was named head coach on June 18, the same day SMSU announced it would reinstate men's and women's cross country. This will be the first year SMSU has competed in cross country since the programs disbanded following the 1990 season.
With little time for Wolf to organize a full team before the start of the school year, there were questions as to whether the Mustangs would be able to compete this year or have to wait until next year. But SMSU's newest head coach said the environment he entered when he joined the athletic department took some of the stress out of assembling a team in such a short amount of time.
"The best part about (SMSU director of athletics) Chris Hmielewski and President (Ron) Wood is that they're pretty practical people and they knew that if I gave it the best chance I could and if we couldn't make it happen, you know, we'd just have to wait a year," said Wolf, who was head men's and women's cross country coach at Northwestern College (Iowa) last year. "I didn't feel like I had a ton of pressure that way. That was nice and I greatly appreciated that from them.
"There are still some challenges. We need to get uniforms and some things like that, but hopefully here in the next two weeks all of that stuff gets sorted out."
Most college-bound student-athletes have their school chosen well in advance of the summer before their freshman year. That meant Wolf had to dig deep to find runners to fill his roster.
First, Wolf and the athletic department sent out a mass email to the SMSU student body to announce the school had reinstated cross country and was looking for runners for the upcoming 2012 season. Wolf also contacted multiple recruiting agencies to see if there were any runners who hadn't been placed yet. Runners who were looking to transfer from other schools were also in play.
Wolf said the men's and women's squads will be made up of current SMSU students, as well as some incoming freshmen he spoke with earlier in the summer before they had decided to attend SMSU.
"I think what they all have in common is they all really enjoy running, and that's kind of where we're starting," he said.
No runners have signed to run at SMSU yet, so Wolf is unable to release names of his athletes for the upcoming season. He hopes to have the roster posted within the next 10-14 days.
Wolf was able to release something this week, as SMSU announced its cross country schedule on Tuesday. The Mustangs' first meet of the season will be the South Dakota State Classic on Sept. 14 in Brookings, S.D.
Since most of his athletes are getting a late start in terms of training, he said he scheduled the first meet about a week later than he normally would. The Mustangs will compete at four events before the NSIC Championships, which will take place Oct. 20 in Minneapolis. Wolf said an average season will consist of five to six meets.
While trying to find runners for this season, Wolf has also been working on his 2013 recruiting class. As a selling point, he's been stressing the opportunity for student-athletes to put their stamp on SMSU cross country these first couple of years while being pioneers of a program.
Wolf knows it will take some time for his teams to achieve success. He also knows it's imperative in these early stages to bring in athletes who have the right attitude.
"We just want to create a base, a foundation, so that the athletes coming in next year will have some upperclassmen to lean on and be able to be taught what it means to be an athlete and what it means to be a college runner and those types of things," Wolf said.
"Right now it's much more on the process of season than probably what the outcome of the season will be."