The women’s cross country team is on the rise. For the first time since 1994, the Red earned a top-25 ranking in a national preseason poll. Placed No. 23 in the country before the first meet of the season, the Red is finally beginning to get some of the recognition and respect that it feels it deserves. And, after a convincing win at the Army Invitational, the Red harriers have moved up two spots to No. 21 in the nation as of Sept. 25.
The Red’s recent recognition is based largely on the strength of its 2001 season. The team moved up from fourth to second in the Heps, placed sixth at the ECACs, and returned to the NCAA championships, finishing in 30th place. The Red showed the consistency and determination necessary to be ranked among the nation’s top 25 teams for the final seven weeks of the season.
Head coach Lou Duesing is pleased with the idea of his team being placed among the nation’s best teams, but he knows that it is performance that counts.
“I don’t put much stock in preseason polls,” admitted Duesing. “And, I don’t think the preseason ranking has had much of an effect on the team. But, it’s nice to be considered as one of those top schools and be in the position to back that up. Given their performance at Army, I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be ranked among the top 30 teams in the country.”
The strides made during the 2001 season look to be only a stepping stone to bigger and better things to come this fall. With only one senior among the team’s top seven runners last season, the Red will have a strong group returning with the added benefit of a year’s experience competing in championship meets against the top collegiate teams.
Duesing believes that inspired practices and offseason training are the keys to success.
“I could not be happier with the quality of work I have been seeing in practice. They have shown a lot of support for one another and great spirit. It’s nice to see such a positive attitude in the way the team works together. You can tell that everyone is looking forward to the championship part of the season by the way they have been working in the off-season. Everyone is ready to run.”
The squad looks to senior captain Carlan Gray and junior Jessica Parrott to provide spirit, stability, and leadership to a strong and diverse group of runners. Gray was voted the team MVP after placing among the Red’s top-three finishers at every race last fall, and Parrott has been a consistent top-five finisher during the last two seasons. But they will not be alone out there on the course.
A major part of the Red’s strength is that during any given meet, a number of different runners have the ability to step up and contribute. Seniors Natalie Whelan and Sara Karam will look to build upon solid performances and post some breakthrough times while providing added leadership. Juniors looking to be a factor this season include Christine Eckstaedt and Aliza Cohen. Both athletes have been reliable in the past and appear prepared to take the next step.
With a year of experience on their belts, last year’s rookies plan on taking their performances to the next level during their sophomore season, while helping this year’s group of freshmen make the adjustment to running at the collegiate level. Sophomores showing great promise include Kate Boyles, Jen Meil, and Kari Haus. They plan on showing the incoming freshmen, such as Christy Planer, Mandy Knuckles, and Angela Kudla, the training and commitment it takes to achieve at meets.
Duesing sees great things for his team, but sees something even better in its positive outlook.
“This team’s strength is that it has a good cross-section of talents represented. That variety has been a key to our consistency, and I look for that to continue with this team. This team has great energy. Every year is a new year, but the overall attitude has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s like they’re saying, ‘Bring it on. Let’s go get it done.'”
Archived article by Adam Matthews