The start of the 2016 season also was the start of a new a coaching dynamic for the Bearcats cross country program as Associate Head Coach Sam Burroughs, who had led both the men and women for the previous three seasons, was set to work with just the men's side while Assistant Coach Lara Crofford, in her second season with the program, was asked to guide the women.
The changes made immediate impacts as both coaches were able to focus their energies on just one team, providing an opportunity for continued growth and success, both of which were realized in the final results of most meets throughout the season.
Heading into the season, Burroughs' roster included 12 men, four of which were freshmen, with his top returners being all-conference runners Toby Loveridge (cross country) and Dan Huben (track & field/steeplechase).
Crofford was tasked to work with an 18-woman roster that featured two rookies and a handful of strong returners, including Alexis Anton, Emma Hensley, Juliana Madzia and Meg Westerheide.
Following a quick dual at Kentucky on September 1, the Bearcats opened their invitational season as they played host to the 35th Annual Queen City Invitational at the Voice of American Metropark in West Chester on Saturday, September 3. Not only did the meet provide the program a chance to compete close to campus, but it also allowed them to preview the course they would run at the end of the season in the conference meet.
The women sent 10 runners to the line with three earning Top 25 finishes while those three also ran sub-23-minute times on the 6,000m course. UC scored 93 points to finish third behind Ohio State (15) and Cedarville (66) while finishing ahead of local rivals Northern Kentucky (5th) and Xavier (209).
- Top Finisher: Juliana Madzia - 19th - 22:47.2
Dan Huben led the charge for the men with four of the six runners in the meet all competing in their first collegiate events. Huben finished fourth on the day with John Murdock placing 16th to give the men two finishers in the Top 20. UC placed fourth in the team standings with 106 points while OSU won the team title with 23 points.
- Top Finisher: Dan Huben - 4th - 18:31.3
Between the Queen City Invitational and the conference meet, the UC women entered a trio of meets, including the Friendship Invitational, the All-Ohio Cross Country Championships and the adidas NCAA Pre-National Invitational.
At nearly the last minute, the women added the Friendship Invitational to their schedule and it turned out to be a solid decision as the Bearcats placed second out of 10 schools in the 5,000m event on the same course they would run two weeks later. Hannah Christ led the way as she was eighth overall in 18:46.3 as UC also had two others finish in the Top 10, including Meg Westerheide (9th) and Juliana Madzia (10th). All told, nine women toed the start line with seven finishing the Top 20 of a race with 122 finishers.
- Top Finisher: Hannah Christ - 8th - 18:46.3
The Bearcats returned to Cedarville two weeks later and sent two squads to compete in the All-Ohio Championships. In the main event, the women finished 6th among 43 Ohio schools with Juliana Madzia setting the pace as she finished 10th overall in 22:07.4. As a team, the Bearcats had two runners under 23 minutes as freshman Marina Wrede ran 22:58.9 to finish 37th overall.
The team also entered competitors in the open race where Emma Hensley led the way with an eighth-place finish in 23:44.5. With her finish, Hensley helped UC to a runner-up finish in the open race that saw 23 different teams score. Cassidy Carey (15th), Alexis Anton (16th) and Vanessa Robinson (19th) all placed in the Top 20 of the open race.
- Top Finisher: Juliana Madizia - 10th - 22:07.4
- Top Finisher (Open): Emma Hensley - 8th - 23:44.5
In the final tune-up before the conference meet, the Bearcats traveled to Terre Haute, Ind., for the adidas NCAA Pre-National Invitational and competed in the White Race, placing 21st overall in the 6,000m event. Juliana Madzia led the way once again, this time by breaking 22 minutes as she finished 32nd overall in 21:58.1. UC's Top 4 runners all placed in the Top 105 of the race.
In the open event, only four runners were able to finish with Alexis Anton leading the way as she placed 33rd overall in 23:12.6. Also racing were Tessa Ward (47th) and Hannah Markel (50th), both of whom finished in the Top 50.
- Top Finisher: Juliana Madzia - 32nd - 21:58.1
- Top Finisher (Open): Alexis Anton - 33rd - 23:12.6
The men had just two races between the Queen City Invitational and the American Athletic Conference Championships, running two squads each at the All-Ohio Championships and the adidas NCAA Pre-National Invitational.
The varsity team for the men finished third overall (among 42 teams) at the All-Ohio Championships with Toby Loveridge placing eighth overall to lead the charge. IN a race that featured 287 finishers, the Bearcats placed four in the Top 25 and their Top 5 among the Top 40 overall.
In the open race, Michael Vitucci led the way as he was 16th overall as the Bearcats placed ninth overall (among 23 teams). John Murdock was the only other Bearcat to place in the Top 25 as he finished 23rd overall.
- Top Finisher: Toby Loveridge - 8th - 25:27.5
- Top Finisher (Open): Michael Vitucci - 16th - 26:57.8
In the final meet before the conference meet, the men traveled to Terre Haute, Ind., to compete in the adidas NCAA Pre-National Invitational on the same course that would play host to the national championship in November. At this meet, the men competed in the 'White Race' and placed third overall among 20 teams. Toby Loveridge was once again out front for the Bearcats, finishing 17th overall. The Top 5 scorers for the team all finished in the Top 65 with Dan Huben adding a Top 25 finish by placing 22nd.
In the open race, John Murdock placed 48th overall as the team had five runners on the course. Frank Pierce was right behind Murdock as he placed 50th overall.
- Top Finisher: Toby Loveridge - 17th - 25:17.0
- Top Finisher (Open): John Murdock - 48th - 27:48.2
The men returned to the Top 3 of the standings in the American Athletic Conference after a one-year hiatus (5th) by placing third overall in the meet UC hosted at Voice of American MetroPark. Toby Loveridge (7th) and Dan Huben (13th) each earned all-conference accolades by placing among the Top 15 in the race to lead the Bearcats, who finished with 109 points, just 8 out of second place, where Tulane finished with 101 points. With the finishes of Loveridge and Huben, the UC men had multiple all-conference honorees for the third time in four years in the American.
- Top Finisher: Toby Loveridge - 7th - 24:41.8
Entering the meet, the women had finished 10th or 11th in the American in each of the previous three years and had not had an all-conference finisher. Both of those things changed this year as Juliana Madzia placed 13th overall and the team finished sixth overall in the 11-team race. Historically, the team's finish is its best since UC took sixth at the Conference USA meet in 2004. This year's finish also equals its sixth-best finish in a conference meet all-time.
- Top Finisher: Juliana Madzia - 13th - 21:19.7
The final meet of the season came at the NCAA Great Lakes Region Championships in Madison, Wis. At the meet, both teams improved upon their finishes from the previous year to close out the cross country season, a season that went a long way in preparing the Bearcats for not only the upcoming track & field seasons, but for future cross country seasons, too.
Juliana Madizia led the charge once again as she finished 66th overall in 21:33.3, the third meet in a row in which she ran under 22 minutes. Combined, the women ran a solid team race as the team averaged a time of 22:20.5, the fastest of the season after setting the previous best two weeks earlier at the conference meet with an average of 22:22.0. Overall, UC placed 21st out of the 32 teams in the Great Lakes Region, just missing out on the Top 20.
- Top Finisher: Juliana Madzia - 66th - 21:33.3
In the lone 10,000m race of the season for the Bearcats, the team placed 17th among the 30 teams in the region. Dan Huben was one of two Bearcats to place in the Top 100 as he finished 58th in 31:56.5 while Seamus Collins placed 76th in 32:11.0. Compared to the 2015 race, Huben improved by 61 places (119th) while Collins rose 24 places (100th). In fact, as a team, the Top 6 runners for UC finished better than the fifth runner in 2015.
- Top Finisher: Dan Huben - 58th - 31:56.5
Three Bearcats earned postseason accolades as each was named American Athletic All-Conference for their performances at the American Championships:
Toby Loveridge finished seventh overall in the 8,000m race, finishing in 24:41.8. Loveridge not only finished seventh overall in the conference race for the second year in a row, but also claimed American Athletic All-Conference honors by finishing among the Top 15.
Dan Huben placed 13th overall in 25:09.9 in the conference race to earn his first American Athletic All-Conference honor in cross country. Now a three-time all-conference selection, Huben has earned the league award in back-to-back American meets after placing third in the 3,000m steeplechase at the outdoor track & field championships last spring.
Juliana Madzia placed 13th overall in the women's 6,000m run, clocking in at a season-best 21:19.7 to lead the way for the women. Her selection as American Athletic All-Conference is not only her first honor, but the first for the Bearcats women in cross country since joining the league in time for the 2013 championships.