George Towle isn’t one to pick favorites. The idea of focusing on one or two particular athletes doesn’t mesh with his coaching philosophy; he prefers to focus on individual work and equality for all athletes.

“George works really hard at making time for everyone on the team to get their work done and will accommodate around your schedule no matter what time of day it is,” senior co-captain Carly Dion (Biddeford) said. “It truly makes you want to improve every day.”

“There are days when George will run five practice times just to make sure everyone has the opportunity to get their work in,” the team’s other captain, senior Erin Garvey (Haverhill, Mass.) said.

Towle, who is in his 26th year as the head coach of the USM women’s cross country team, looks to apply this philosophy to the 2010 team to maintain the kind of success the team has had in the last several years. He has a lot to work with: By his estimation, this year’s is one of the most talented teams ever.

“This year’s team will be the deepest team in many years,” Towle said. “It has a nice balance of returnees, transfers, and freshman. The goal is to improve on last season — given the talent level is realistic.”

With the team supporting each other combined with Towle’s dedicated concern for everyone to get their work done everyday, the Huskies are in great shape to be a dominant force in the Little East Conference this season.

Of the returners on this year’s team, five were in the top seven runners on the team in 2009 and are striving to get better on a daily basis. Dion, senior Tiffany Binette (Biddeford), sophomore Brooke Madden (Dedham), and senior Alexandra Raynor (Lamoine) look to be key contributors on the 2010 squad. Garvey, who is sidelined with stress fractures in both hips to begin the season, is working hard to make a quick recovery to make the USM lineup even better.

Dion is expected to be the Huskies’ top runner this year as she turned in a career season in 2009 by finishing 47th out of 315 runners in the New England Div. III Championships held at the Twin Brook Recreation Center in Cumberland with a time of 23 minutes, 9.2 seconds.

Towle believes that Binette is ready for a breakthrough season, and seniors Robyn Parsons (Rumford), Christina Connolly (Boise, ID), and Ann Knausenberger are expected to provide depth. The Huskies have also brought in key transfers that they will look towards to place well once their schedule gets up and running.

“We will be counting on three proven transfers who are all sophomores, in Molly Carl (York), Katie Snow (Brewer), and Katherine McWilliams (Nashville, TN),” Towle said.

Along with the veterans are junior Katlyn Gardiner (Buxton), and sophomores Ariel Howes (Farmingdale), and Nikole Robbins (West Gardiner) who are experienced USM track and field athletes and are expected to make the mix of talent even more interesting.

The younger runners on the team, particularly three key newcomers who include Lily Sund (Clifton), Morgan Beede (Augusta), and Katie Styczynski (Dresden), have the potential to fill the graduated spots from last year and turn in some good times as the Huskies look to improve on their second place LEC Conference finish in 2009, and seek their first conference title since the 1999 season. Given the team’s hard work and support and Towle’s dedication, this could be the year.

“Cross country can be a tough sport so I’m willing to help out individuals if they can’t make it to the traditional practice time,” Towle said. “You never know who is going to break away and have a tremendous season.”

This statement is completely true with the amount of talent the team has, and strangely enough, even though so much individual work is being done at different times of the day, the Huskies’ goal is to work together as one in order to succeed, especially in early races.

“I think the focus for the first few meets is pack running and working as a team in order to score better as a team, rather than worrying about individual scores,” Garvey said. “It’s going to be a challenge at first but everyone did their work over the summer to get to this point and I think it will benefit us in the long run.”

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