On national signing day, the Charlotte 49ers cross country program announces the addition of five newcomers for the 2012 season. Morgan Richards, Lauren Pollard and Savannah Fornshell will join the women's team, while Nathan Tallada and Nicholas Rotz will aid the men's squad next year. Of the group, three hail from the state of Pennsylvania, while two are from North Carolina.
"This is such a great start to our fall 2012 signing class and we are so thrilled to welcome these outstanding student athletes to the 49ers family," cross country coach and track and field assistant Ed Schlichter said. "We have a few more offers out and we're looking forward to adding them to our very competitive 2012 recruiting class within the next few weeks."
Morgan Richards (Hermitage, Pa./Hickory HS)
Morgan Richards highlights the pool of newcomers, having thrived at the high school level and collected a number of accolades already in her young career. The Hermitage, Penn. native is a two-time PIAA District 10 Champion and four-time district medalist. She finished 10th at the PIAA state championship this past year and is a three-time state medalist. In addition, she has excelled in track and field, compiling eight district and four state medals, including a pair of district championships in the 1600m and 3200m.
"Morgan has had a tremendous career at Hickory (PA) and she brings a passion and determination to the program that will benefit the team greatly," Schlichter said. "She has great speed and endurance that will continue to flourish at the collegiate level. We are so excited that she chose Charlotte over several great programs to develop into one of our future record holders and help us in our pursuit of an NCAA Cross Country Championship team berth and Atlantic 10 Cross Country team title."
Lauren Pollard (Benson, N.C./West Johnston HS)
Among the honors on Lauren Pollard's resume is a fourth place finish at the NCHSAA 4A East Regional Cross Country Championships and a 38th place effort at the state championship meet. In addition, she boasts three top-15 finishes in the 1600m and 3200m at the indoor and outdoor track and field state championship.
"Lauren is an outstanding addition to our women's cross country and track & field program," Schlichter said. "She has eminent potential to challenge for a top seven position on the team next fall. She has improved steadily every year and will be a threat in the mile next year as well. We found a real gem within Lauren and we're proud she'll be wearing a 49ers jersey next fall."
Tiffany Lang (Columbia, Md./Oakland Mills HS)
Tiffany Lang brings a wealth of talent and high school experience to the Charlotte squad. Between cross country and track & field, she has seven top-five finishes at the Maryland State Championships in the past two years. Most recently, she picked up a pair of runner-up finishes at the 2011 state cross country championships and the mile at the 2012 indoor state meet.
"Tiffany has had a tremendous high school career as dominate runner in the state of Maryland. She has the mentality and work ethic to be one of the great ones. Tiffany has also expressed interest in the 10K, which is another area where we really pride ourselves on developing talent. I'm excited to work with Tiffany and we're so fortunate to add another outstanding performer to the program."
Nathan Tallada (Saegertown, Pa./Saegertown HS)
Nathan Tallada comes to Charlotte with three PIAA District 10 Cross Country Championships under his belt. The Saegertown, Penn. native is also a four-time state medalist in cross country, including a ninth place finish at the state meet this past year.
"Nate is a champion in cross country," Schlichter said. "He has won three straight district titles and finished top 20 in the state of Pennsylvania every year since he was a freshman. He's going to be a much needed "cross guy" who will work extremely well along side Zach Greth and Daweet Dagnachew. I can see Nate cracking the top five as a freshman and bringing real excitement to the program. We got a real talent in Nate and he's going to shine within our program."
Nicholas Rotz (Chambersburg, Pa./Chambersburg HS)
Nicholas Rotz had a breakthrough year in cross country this past fall, finishing seventh at the extremely competitive PIAA District 3 Cross Country Championships. He demonstrates incredible speed, with a 1:55 split on his 4x800m.
"Nick comes from my high school alma mater. Knowing personally how tough the courses are in Pennsylvania and being able to relate to what someone like Nick has in means of potential is huge for our program. He's a triple threat athlete with championship closing speed, endurance to run with anyone, and a never-quit mentality. He and Nate (Tallada) will be able to feed off each other as they become instrumental in pushing us towards our program goals."
John Felts (Lewisberry, Pa./Red Land HS)
John Felts is a two-time state qualifier in cross country. His best finish came at the 2011 PIAA District 3 Cross Country Championships, where he placed third overall. Felts already shares a tie with the Charlotte cross country/track & field programs: current 49er freshman Zach Greth finished third at the District 3 meet the year before. In addition, he comes from the same high school as former Niners standout Aaron Kauffman.
"We're really excited about John as an addition to our strong 2012 class. He's another stud in cross country making for a fierce group of freshmen for next fall. He's going to complement the other guys really well, again with great speed and great strength. He's consistently at the front of every race he's in."
David Keeler (Mebane, N.C./Eastern Alamance HS)
David Keeler, who hails from the same high school as will-be teammate Michael Tamayo, is the 2012 North Carolina Indoor Track State Champion in the 1,000m. A solid mid-distance runner, Keeler has potential to develop into a strong mile competitor as a 49er.
"Being a North Carolina State champion in a highly competitive division and in the middle distance area is a great pick up for us. We see David forming into a strong mile focus for us and that's an area that will be extremely important to us moving forward."
Chris Anderson (High Point, N.C./Westchester Country Day School)
Chris Anderson, another North Carolina native, turned in a fifth place finish at the 2011 NCISAA State Cross Country Championships this past fall. In addition, he earned a bronze medal in the 3,200m at last year's state track and field championships.
"Chris comes from a family of runners and has had several breakthroughs over past few months. He is poised to have a stellar career at Charlotte and we're extremely excited that he is a part of this incoming 2012 class that is shaping up extremely well."
Jason Creasy (Pfafftown, N.C./Ronald Reagan HS)
Jason Creasy was a top-five scorer for the Ronald Reagan cross country team that claimed a top-five spot at the 2011 NCHSAA State Cross Country Championships this past fall.
"Jason has a lot of potential to become a strong contributor for us as we continue to develop him," Schlichter said. "We're very honored to have him join the Niner family."
Eli Clevenger (Weaverville, N.C./North Buncombe HS)
Eli Clevenger finished sixth overall, just behind Creasy, at the 2011 NCHSAA State Cross Country Championships. That season, he also became the 2011 Mountain Athletics Conference and NCHSAA Western Regional Cross Country Champion. This past indoor season, Clevenger placed captured a bronze medal in the 3,200m at the Indoor State Championships.
"Eli is going to be a huge talent for us in the future," said Schlichter. "He's very passionate towards the sport and we're excited to see him challenge for a top seven spot."