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Cross country: East making history

By Bret Strelow
bstrelow@salisburypost.com
East Rowan cross country coach Rick Roseman has seen his boys program qualify for the state meet 12 times in 24 years.
The Mustangs have finished as well as fourth on two occasions.
“And this team this year is the best team ever based on times,” Roseman said. “Their times are incredible.”
East, led by senior Ross Oden and sophomore Cole Honeycutt, claimed a berth in Saturday’s 3A meet at Tanglewood Park by finishing third in the Midwest Regional.
Oden (third individually with a time of 16:28) and Honeycutt (fifth in 16:46) made the all-region team. Preston Dixon (17:37), Brad Oden (17:39) and Eli Walton (17:40) also scored for the Mustangs.
Mark Almeida (17:58) was the sixth runner to break 18 minutes, and Hunter Arey rounded out the top seven.
East will send its team to the state meet for the first time since 2002, when one of the fourth-place showings occurred.
“It’s good to get the tradition going again,” Ross Oden said. “It’s the best year we’ve had in quite a while. Coach keeps telling us it’s the fastest team he’s ever coached.”
East, which also placed fourth in the state in 1993, won the NPC title this year to give Roseman his fourth conference championship with the boys. The Mustangs have been the runner-up in their league to the eventual state champion 12 times.
East has captured 15 county championships with Roseman in charge, and each member of this year’s top seven made the 14-runner, all-NPC team.
“The thing that makes this team special is they keep improving all the time,” Roseman said. “A lot of teams peak, or they think they burn out. If we kept running for another month I swear I think these guys would keep lowering their times for the next month. They are that excited. There’s no way to tell where we might finish in the state meet.”
Oden, the county champion in 2008, just missed out on qualifying for the state meet as an individual last year.
Roseman uses times from Charlotte’sMcAlpine Park course, which has remained the same through the years, to rank the best performances in school history.
Benjamin Frick twice ran a 15:57 in 1993, and Phillip Johnson had a 16:23 in 2002. Oden stands third with his regional effort last weekend. Matthew Storie is fourth with a 16:41, and Honeycutt is next with the best McAlpine time ever by an East sophomore.
Oden holds the East record at three courses ó Dan Nicholas Park, MacAnderson Park in Statesville and Southside Park in Newton. He hopes to break the Tanglewood Park record of 17:03 set by Johnson in 2002.
The Mustangs achieved all but one of the goals they established in the preseason ó they fell short of having every runner on the team break 21 minutes.
“This year all the pieces have come together,” Roseman said.
Dixon, a senior, and Almeida, a sophomore, are in their first year with the team. Dixon started running seriously in late August.
The senior trio of Dixon, Oden and Arey includes a standout who didn’t participate in cross country as a freshman.
Oden, who was in Roseman’s geometry class as a ninth-grader, constantly caught grief from his teacher and fellow student Justin Holshouser.
“They would come in and basically nag me, like, ‘Ross, you going to run next year?’ ” Oden said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know. I don’t do distance.’ One day I just decided I was going to do it.”
His decision helped convince his younger brother Brad, now a sophomore, to join the team once he enrolled at East.
Speed runs in the family.
Their grandfather competed in marathons, half-marathons and 10Ks. He moved from Iowa to North Carolina in 2005, but he and his wife were tragically killed in a motorcycle accident a few months after arriving in the state.
The Oden family keeps a box filled with medals from his numerous running victories.
“His times for his age were pretty outstanding,” Ross Oden said. “There’s a good 40 medals in there. That’s quite a feat in itself.”
The times Oden and his teammates have produced this season stand alone in East history.
Those low numbers are why the Mustangs are headed to the state meet for the first time in seven years.
“I don’t like breaks,” Roseman said. “We went so often for so long, having a seven-year stretch of not going, it’s really made me appreciate it even more.”

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