A solid core of experienced returning upperclassmen will be key to the success of the Hope College men's cross country team in 2008.

A solid core of experienced returning upperclassmen will be key to the success of the Hope College men's cross country team in 2008.

The 2007 Flying Dutchmen finished third in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA).

Mark Northuis begins his third decade as coach of the Hope cross country program. In 20 seasons under Coach Northuis, the Flying Dutchmen have finished third or higher every year in the conference standings.

This year's squad returns four runners who achieved all-conference honors a year ago. Rob Bailey from Portage, Ind. (Portage HS) was a first-team honoree while Zach King from Portage, Mich. (Portage Northern HS); Paul VanderVelde from Lawrence, Kan. (Free State HS); and Matt Wiersum, from Minnetonka, Minn. (Minnetonka HS) were named to the second team. Bailey, King and VanderVelde are seniors while Wiersum is a junior.

Bailey finished seventh at the conference championship meet and was the only runner not from Calvin to receive All-MIAA first team recognition.

The team also returns Seth Weener of Grandville, Mich. (Grandville HS) as a fifth-year senior. He was an All-MIAA cross country honoree in 2006. Last spring he was the MIAA track & field champion in the 1,500-meter run.

The pre-season roster of 33 athletes includes 22 returning letterwinners. There are eight freshmen, 10 sophomores, six juniors and nine seniors.

Bailey and VanderVelde will be co-captains. Other returning letterwinners include junior Eric Anderson of Ann Arbor, Mich. (Pioneer HS), sophomore Carl Dunker of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (Seaholm HS), sophomore Luke Eastburg of Grand Rapids, Mich. (Forest Hills Central HS), sophomore Kevin Hagan of Okemos, Mich. (Okemos HS), junior Ryan Jara of Commerce Township (Walled Lake North HS), junior Collin Kooy of Metamora, Mich. (Flint Powers HS), sophomore Derek Laird of Holland, Mich. (Holland HS), and sophomore Brett May of Rockford, Mich. (Rockford HS).

Also, senior Carl Morrison of Pickford, Mich. (Pickford HS), senior James Ralston of Holly, Mich. (Fenton HS), senior Kent Reschke of Naperville, Ill. (Naperville Central HS), sophomore Jordan Richardson of Reading, Mich. (Reading HS), sophomore Nick Rinck of Richardson, Mich. (Richardson HS), senior Daniel Sultz of Benzie, Mich. (Benzie Central HS), junior Ryan Summers of Naperville, Ill. (Naperville Central HS), sophomore David Todd of Lansing, Mich. (Lansing HS), and junior Lucas Wolthuis of Vicksburg, Mich. (Vicksburg HS).

The Flying Dutchmen also excelled in the classroom in 2007-08 receiving Team Academic All-America honors from the College Cross Country Coaches Association for the 17th time over 18 years. Four returning cross country athletes were named to the 2007-08 MIAA Academic Honor Roll - Rob Bailey, Luke Eastburg, James Ralston, David Todd.

The Flying Dutchmen will open the season on Saturday, Aug. 30 by hosting the Bill Vanderbilt Invitational. It will be the team's only home meet. The regular season schedule will culminate with the MIAA championships hosted by Kalamazoo College on Saturday, Nov. 1. The NCAA Regional will be run in Westerville, Ohio on Nov. 15 and a week later the nationals will be held in Hanover, Ind.