The Washington and Lee women’s track & field team has been making great strides (pun intended) under the stewardship of ninth-year Head Coach Nate Hoey. Having captured the 2009 Indoor ODAC Championship, just the second conference crown in school history, and finishing third at both the conference indoor and outdoor meets a season ago, the Generals, with a young, talented core of returnees and a promising stable of first-years, appear ready to challenge for the top spot in the league once again.
“We have a great young core of returnees and we feature a versatile roster that will be able to cover all event areas,” Hoey stated. “We have added people in some key areas and we have added much-needed depth that we have not had in years past. Overall we are a very young team, but I feel that we are a better team than we were a year ago.”
Young may be an understatement as 20 of the 29 athletes on the roster are first-years or sophomores.
“With our youth comes a lot of energy and enthusiasm, as well as a tremendous work ethic,” Hoey said.
An abundance of youth does not equate to a dearth of talent as 12 All-ODAC performers and four individual ODAC Champions dot the roster.
Headlining the returnees and proving to be an invaluable source of inspiration is senior captain Natalie Stier. The 2010 Outdoor ODAC Champion in the 400m hurdles and the conference record holder (1:04.45) in the event, Stier missed all of last season after being involved in a near-fatal car accident in December, but has returned to competition as a senior following a remarkable recovery.
“It’s great to welcome back Natalie,” Hoey remarked. “She has been training hard and has always been a very serious competitor. We can’t wait to see her race this year and she continues to be an inspiration for everyone…myself included.”
Joining Stier as captains are juniors Lauren Schultz and Marissa Thompson.
Schultz anchors the W&L distance contingent and returns as the two-time defending conference champion in the 3,000m steeplechase, 2010 ODAC Rookie of the Year (outdoor), and the 2010 5,000m champion at the indoor meet. Additionally, she is a three-time First-Team All-ODAC honoree in cross country and is coming off an appearance at the NCAA National Championship meet two weeks ago.
“Lauren is a strong and dedicated runner who leads by example in all that she does,” Hoey noted.
The final captain is Thompson, who produced a breakout campaign as a sophomore. Currently the school-record holder in the 55m (7.37), 60m (8.14), 100m (12.65) and triple jump (10.62m) she was a four-time ODAC champ last year, winning the 55m and 200m at the indoor meet and the 100m and 200m at the outdoor meet. In winning the 100m, she became the first W&L woman to win the 100m and the first W&L athlete, male or female, to win the sprint double at a championship meet.
“She has lofty goals for this season, both for the team and for herself,” Hoey quipped. “She is working hard to make those goals a reality and she could have another big year.”
In addition to her impressive repertoire of events, Thompson will look to add the 100m hurdles to her resume, an event she took second in at the conference outdoor meet in her first-ever season picking up the race.
Maxey returns as the defending ODAC champion and school record holder (38.58m) in the discus and appears poised for a big year.
“Taylor is an explosive thrower with massive potential,” Hoey said. “She is a diligent worker and really came into her own last season.”
Ortiz will join Schultz in the distance events and has proven to be a valuable member of the team the past several seasons. She posted the second-best steeplechase time in the ODAC last season and proved to be a valuable runner in the 1,500m as well. She narrowly missed an All-ODAC citation at this year’s ODAC Cross Country Championships, finishing in 15th place - missing postseason accolades by just one place.
“We are excited to have her back this season,” Hoey said. “She missed ODAC’s (outdoor) last season and getting her back for a full season is big for us.”
Kelsey McClary, Leigh Dannhauser, Annelise Madison, Brandi Huffman, Alex Hagan and Lauren Woodie are just some of the athletes that Hoey is excited to see on the track.
McClary earned All-ODAC honors as a first-year after taking third in the 55m hurdles at the indoor meet.
“She has an outstanding work ethic and is one of the most competitive people that I know,” Hoey contended. “She will be vital to our relays and is always doing the little things that it takes to be successful.”
Dannhauser also earned All-ODAC honors as a first-year, taking third in the high jump at the indoor meet. She will be counted on to score in the high jump and pole vault and has picked up the heptathlon in her second season.
“She is a very versatile athlete and, despite being only a sophomore, has proven to be a good vocal leader,” Hoey contended.
Madison is yet another All-ODAC returnee that Hoey has at his disposal. She is the current school record holder in the 800m indoors (2:19.97) and finished third in the event indoors in addition to a third-place finish in the outdoor 1,500m. Madison recently completed the cross country season in which she earned First Team All-ODAC honors with a fifth-place finish.
“She is a very competitive racer, a ‘gamer’ if you will,” Hoey noted. “She has high aspirations for this season and is coming off a great cross country season.”
Huffman is another cross country athlete coming off a solid fall, having placed 11th at the conference meet to earn second team all-conference honors followed by a 34th-place finish at the NCAA South/Southeast Regional meet to earn all-region honors. She finished second in the 5,000m at the last year’s outdoor meet to earn All-ODAC honors.
“She has improved so much since last year and has proven to be a diligent runner,” Hoey said.
Hagan returns after placing third in pole vault at the outdoor championships a season ago.
Woodie proved to be a versatile scorer for last year’s team, competing on the fourth-place finishing 4x400m relay team and taking fifth in the 400m at the indoor meet and fourth in the 400m at the outdoor meet.
“She has had a great fall of training,” Hoey said. “She has proven to be very consistent and I am excited to see her compete this year.”
Rounding Hoey’s roster is one of the largest first-year classes in program history, a group that possesses the potential to contribute right away.
Look for Jennifer Friberg, Mary Kamp, Ashley Weiler, Jillian Katterhagen, McCabe Galloway, and Janey Fugate among others to bolster an already talented roster.
“They have such high energy,” Hoey said of his rookies. “They are very competitive and we will look to them to immediately help balance our roster and create some much needed depth.”
“If the team continues to do the little things that, when done consistently over time make a big difference, we will have an exciting season,” Hoey said. “If we work together and support one another all season we will be successful.”
The Generals begin the 2011-12 season on Friday when they take part in the first day of the two-day Liberty Kickoff event.