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All of the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Seahawks cross country runners know Tom Fisher.

For the younger runners, he has only been their assistant coach over the past two years. But to the four-year runners, they know assistant coach Fisher to have had a different title, head coach.

After starting as the program’s first-ever head coach in 2009 and continuing in 2010, Fisher was an assistant over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, but returns to the head coaching position this season.

“This is my fourth year on the team, and I started with coach Fisher as the head coach and I am really happy to have him back,” senior Ian Morgan said. “He’s a great coach, and he really takes the time to listen to what the team has to say as individuals and as captains. In doing so, he can really target the workouts for us to do that much better.”

Fisher, who replaced previous head coach Lynn O’Dell after O’Dell replaced Fisher in 2011, said that with the last two seasons away from the head coaching position, he feels rejuvenated re-entering the role he first held.

“It’s been an exciting two weeks, and it’s good to be back in the role of the head coach again,” Fisher said. “I am liking what I am seeing on both the men’s and women’s teams. They have both put in some hard work and quality mile,s and we’re looking to see if that all pays off this [season].”

The Seahawks men’s and women’s teams participated in its first meet of the 2013 season on Saturday in the Sea Gull Opener, hosted by Salisbury University.

Both teams will participate in six regular season meets before traveling to the Capital Athletic Conference championships Nov. 2, which are also in Salisbury.

“I feel like every preseason is exciting,” junior David Kersey said, “but this one in particular is because it’s kind of like a new dynamic with a new coach. I think there is a lot of promise for this team.”

Kersey added on Fisher being back, “Coach has always been around, but he has been doing the administrative stuff the past two years. Our coach in the past definitely ran it differently. I think it’s just exciting to have something fresh and try something new. I think we have a lot of potential that we have not [reached] yet.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams finished fourth overall in the team standings last year at the CAC championships.

In the Seahawks’ attempt at a better finish this fall, the men’s side will have to go on without Dan Swain, who graduated earlier this year.

Swain placed fourth overall individually at the 2012 CAC meet and, in turn, picked up the program’s first-ever All-CAC honor.

However, Fisher admitted that coming into this season, he enjoys the depth on both the men’s and women’s teams and hopes that the depth can hide the fact that the squads combined lost 10 runners to graduation.

“It’s great right now,” Morgan said of the team. “I think we have a really strong team, and everyone seems to be having a good time and we’re really ready to run this season.

“I feel a lot stronger than I have felt so far. I think this past weekend and so far this week, I have worked really hard but I feel really ready to go.”

St. Mary’s College of Maryland cross country

Head coach: Tom Fisher (third season)

Last year: Men, fourth at Capital Athletic Conference championships; Women, fourth at Capital Athletic Conference championships

Athletes to watch: Men — Ian Morgan (Sr.), Tim Carey (Jr.), David Kersey (Jr.), Aidan Hennessey (So.); Women — Keighly Bradbrook (Sr.), Sylviann Houck (Sr.), Michelle DiMenna (Jr.), Grace Humphries (Fr.)

Key personnel losses: Men — Dan Swain (All-CAC), Nick Pasko; Women — Margaret Lillie

Strengths: Fisher was quick to mention one word when asked about the strengths of both his men’s and women’s squads: depth. Despite losing 10 athletes to graduation, he said that the depth he has seen on both squads has been arguably the best he has seen in the past four years. He said he believes that the teams have a pack of runners that go eight deep on each side this year.

Weaknesses: Fisher admitted that despite having the depth, there have not been many first-year students infused into the program. Going into next season, he would like to close the recruiting gap and get some first-year students mixed in with his bunch.

Coach’s comments: “We’ve got some new schools coming into the conference, and we have been in the middle of the pack at our conference championships through the first four years. So, we are looking to venture into the top half, either top three or four on both the men’s and women’s sides. Then, we’d like to see if we can get at least one or two men’s and women’s runners onto the All-CAC teams.”

Key meets: Nov. 2, Capital Athletic Conference Championships at Salisbury; Nov. 16, NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Championships at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa.

JAMES A. McCRAY III

jmccray@somdnews.com