Men's Cross Country Preview
Sept. 4, 2003
If you look at the Tigers' seventh place finish in Conference USA last year, you wouldn't come to the assertion that the Tigers are a contender to win C-USA in 2003, however that may be the case. Memphis has a very strong team heading into this fall which holds an international flavor.
"We haven't been this strong in the seven years I've been here," said Cross Country Coach Greg Rusell. "We should finish at the top of the conference and if all goes right, I think we can win the conference. We are loaded this year. In the 33 years Coach Hays has been here, he tells me only one other team was as strong as the one we have for 2003. We are anxious to get going."
Last spring, distance runners Mate Nemeth (Szekszard, Hungary, Jr.), Adam Didyk (Adelaide, Australia, Sr.), Ferenc Bekesi (Budapest, Hungary, Sr.) and Istvan Kerekjarto (Biatorbagy, Hungary, So.) joined the Tiger Track & Cross Country program. By the end of the spring, Nemeth was a C-USA Double medallist and NCAA Championship Qualifier and Didyk, Bekesi and Kerekjarto all fashioned top-three finishes in C-USA and all qualified for NCAA Regional competition. Add to that quartet a highly touted Hungarian recruit, Szabi Karadi (Budapest, Hungary, So.) and Australian recruit, Kym Morgan (Adelaide, Australia, Sr.), with local standouts Rehan Mahmood (Germantown, Tenn., So,) and Imran Mahmood (Germantown, Tenn. So.), and the Tigers are on the prowl in 2003.
"I really think this team has the ability to qualify for an NCAA Regional and possibly an NCAA Championship meet this fall," said Junior Mate Nemeth. "That's why we all came here, so we could train and excel together as a team and accomplish those goals."
Nemeth won the 3000m Steeplechase and 5000m run at C-USA Outdoors last fall. He went on to earn a berth in the NCAA Championships where he placed 12th in the steeplechase. He is the team's top runner entering this fall, but fellow Hungarian Szabi Karadi and Australians Kym Morgan and Adam Didyk could challenge him for bragging rights this fall.
"Szabi (Karadi) has run very good times in the past," said Track Head Coach Glenn Hays. "If he does as well here as he did in Hungary, then he could be quite a runner for us." Karadi competed in the Hungarian National Championships this summer and won the 5000m. His friendship with Bekesi, Kerekjarto and Nemeth brought him to Memphis. Bekesi has had an excellent off-season of training. A transfer from Baylor, this will be Bekesi's last opportunity to compete collegiately. "This is what I have worked for," said Bekesi. "Now we must seize the opportunity we have to qualify for NCAA Championships." Bekesi was Baylor's top runner two years ago at the Big 12 Cross Country Championships.
Morgan won the South Australia Cross Country Championship in 2002. Morgan also qualified for the finals of the 1500m at the Australia Olympic trials in 1999. He is considered one of Australia's top young runners and a contender to earn a spot on the Australian Olympic team for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Like Karadi, a friend brought him to Memphis. Adam Didyk, a former teammate of Morgan's at The University of South Australia, was C-USA's top ranked runner in the 5000m before coming down with an illness just prior to the meet. Didyk has trained very well and will perform a critical role for the Tigers this season.
"We are really excited about the potential of this team," said Didyk. "This is exactly what we wanted. We wanted to put a squad together that could compete at the highest levels and that's what we were able to do."
Returning from last year's squad are sophomore twin brothers Imran and Rehan Mahmood. Both Mahmoods are top-flight runners and triathletes in the Memphis area. Natives of Germantown, they each competed in three meets last year. Imran placed 14th at the Murray State Invitational with a time of 23:26.20 and Rehan placed ninth at the Murray State Invitational with a time of 22:30.90.
"I am really excited about this team's potential," said Cross Country Coach Greg Russell. "The guys really train hard and are really talented. When you have a team with so much depth as we do, you want to take advantage of that by training together. Having able training partners is key to getting better, and that's exactly what the guys have done. I'm looking forward to a good year."
The Tigers begin their season this Saturday by hosting the Memphis Twilight Classic at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex. The meet begins at 7 p.m.