September 5, 2007

Lacking Seniors, W. Harriers Turn to Juniors for Leadership

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The importance of senior leadership is bordering on cliché in the world of college sports. During any televised collegiate sporting event it is almost inevitable that one of the announcers will bring up the impact that senior leadership has had on one or both of the teams.
Dick Vitale, for example, brings up the importance of senior leadership so frequently that he could lead a novice fan to believe that it is not the team that scores the most points that wins a game, but rather the team with the most seniors.
For the women’s cross country team, the presence of senior leadership is one thing that surely will not be over-discussed. This season’s roster does not include one senior.
Four members of the graduating class of 2007 — last year’s captain Robyn Ellerbrock, Erin Linehan, Christy Paul and Toni-Lynn Salucci — were all integral parts of the success of the Red. Replacing their contributions, both in terms of performance and leadership, is the biggest challenge facing this year’s squad.
“It’s definitely hard losing the seniors,” said junior Katie Roll. “We’re a young team, but as a whole, we’re a very talented group of runners.”
Junior Aeriel Emig was voted captain of this year’s team. Among returning members of the team, Emig finished behind only Roll at last year’s ECAC Championships.
“Aeriel clearly has taken the position seriously,” said head coach Lou Duesing. “I think the role of captain has always been an important one. This year is no different.”
Coach Duesing disagreed with the suggestion that Emig’s responsibilities are significantly more important this year because the team has no seniors to provide leadership.
“I think [leadership] will come from the captain and from the people who are the most senior on the team, who happen to be juniors,” he said. “It is a team does that does have some experience.”
Coach Duesing also shot down any ideas that this may be a rebuilding year.
“I never look at things in that perspective,” he said. “To me, with a rebuilding year, there is an element of it is that is looking back. I never look back. This is our team.”
“Even if we were all freshmen, I’m not rebuilding anything — I’m building. If you add a person or subtract a person from a group, it’s a different group,” he continued.
Roll also took the same position as her coach.
“I wouldn’t really consider this year a rebuilding year,” she said. “My class is talented; my freshman year, three of the top eight [runners] were freshman. It’s not just a freshman-sophomore team. The fact that there are a lot of juniors means we have a lot of upperclassmen.”
Duesing went on to say that his squad is highly anticipating the upcoming season.
“I’m very, very happy with this group and the work that they’ve done,” Duesing said. “They’re excited about the season.”