They called it 'No Business Mountain.'
"Because we had no business being out there," former Lynchburg College athletic director and cross country coach Dr. Jack Toms quipped.
But if anyone had business running the trails that criss-crossed that Blue Ridge topography, it was the 1991 Lynchburg College men's cross country team. The team, inducted last Friday into the LC Sports Hall of Fame as a Team of Distinction, was one of the finest in Hornet history. They scalded the field in the South/Southeast Regional with individuals finishing first, second, third, and fifth in the field, and were ninth in the NCAA Division III nationals.
By all accounts, it was total domination.
And in such an individual sport as cross country, it was the team dynamic that made the '91 group special.
"The team thing really is more special because everybody had a part of it," said John Cardwell, who was a junior on that team. "It was always a team thing. Always. I mean, we pushed each other so hard."
And they pushed one another in unique ways. The faster runners -- two All-Americans raced with that group that season, Gregg Cavilere and Jim Adams -- wore training shoes in some meets, including the regional championships, to avoid injury before nationals, and they sometimes ran in the pack to push the bottom half of the team along.
But none of those challenges seemed that big compared to their training, much of which came in the Central Virginia backcountry along the trails of places like No Business Mountain.
"We used to half-jokingly say that we couldn't wait for race day, because it was the easiest day of the week," said Caviliere, who won the region title that season with those clunky training shoes on his feet.
The team, dominant as it was, came together by happenstance, really. Cavilere and Adams, New Jersey high school rivals who came together at Middlesex Community College in the Garden State, both wound up at Lynchburg in the 1989-90 school year as 22-year-old freshmen. Cardwell, another all-region runner, joined the team that same year as a 32-year-old who had never run competitively. The Lynchburg native had a wife and a child, a life outside of college, but running with the team, Cardwell fit right in.
"We had quite the senior-citizen team," Adams said, remembering that scholarship programs at the time would "stockpile" runners, manipulating their courseloads to preserve eligibility, and mixing and matching runners for the best possible teams each season. Lynchburg didn't take it to that extreme, but their ages weren't exactly out of the ordinary for the times.
But they were all quick, and they fit like puzzle pieces.
They lived together, trained together, and went to class together.
"You get each other out of bed," Adams said. "When you're not feeling well, you motivate each other to get out there and train."
The road trips -- Toms took the team around the country to find the best possible competition -- were also memorable.
"I never had that much fun without drinking a beer," Cardwell said.
And it was those experiences as much as the Olympic-style training regimen and top-notch competition that made the '91 Hornets such a force.
But even years later, gathered on the dais in Drysdale Student Center to accept their award, the group smiled and joked like old times.
"It's just like we pick up where we left off," Cavilere said.
And being there, he added, reminded him of more than just his times with the cross country team.
"The lessons that [Dr. Toms] taught us, they carried over into after college," he added. "The work-ethic that I've gained from that is really invaluable. It's taught me quite a lot."
This is the third in a series of features on the 2017 inductees to the LC Sports Hall of Fame. Five individuals -- Shawn Abell (baseball), Chad Clark (men's lacrosse), Lauren Askey Ey (women's soccer), Kim Vaughan (women's soccer), and Anthony Palmisano (baseball) -- and two teams of distinction -- 1991 men's cross country and 1997 women's soccer -- were inducted at last Friday's Alumni Association banquet.