September 10, 2010

2010 Washington and Lee Women's XC Preview

Washington and Lee Head Women's Cross Country Coach Kris Hoey finds herself in a bit of a familiar situation. Gone are four of her Top 7 runners from a season ago, just like the beginning of last season when she had to replace three of the most accomplished women's cross country runners that W&L had ever seen. Those losses, coupled with a relatively inexperienced team, resulted in a second-place finish at the conference meet and ended a run of five-consecutive conference championships.

This season, Hoey thinks that she has the talent to make a run at the top of the podium once again and sustain that success for some time.

"It is always tough to lose four of your Top 7 runners," Hoey noted. "However, this young team is working like a group that has been running together for four years."
 
Despite the loss of several top runners from a season ago, Hoey does return some talented harriers and also welcomes a first-year class that she has already compared to the rookie class of 2005 that became a part of four ODAC Championships.
 
The most notable returnee for the Generals is reigning ODAC Rookie of the Year in both cross country and outdoor track & field, first team all-conference and all-region honoree Lauren Schultz. The sophomore was often one of W&L's top runners from a season ago and her growth and experience will be vital to the Generals' success.
 
"She is coming off a great track season and summer of training," Hoey noted of Schultz. "She has extraordinary strength, commitment and character. She is fit and ready for a long season."
 
Hoey returns one other all-conference runner from a season ago in sophomore Molly Ortiz. Ortiz, a Second Team All-ODAC honoree, will look to pair with Schultz to form a formidable sophomore class.
 
"Molly is coming off a summer of consistent training and she is looking very strong," Hoey pointed out.
 
Along with a great deal of talent in the sophomore class, Hoey possess a load of experience in her senior class. Senior captains Cathy Collier, Katherine Fenwick and Ryleigh Nucilli will provide the leadership needed on a team featuring 14 underclassmen.
 
"Katherine is running better than ever and she is excited about competing," Hoey stated. "Her leadership is outstanding and is needed with this young group."
 
"This looks like it will be her best season yet," Hoey said of Collier, while adding  "Ryleigh is the most improved runner from 2009 and she is looking to continue on that same path in her senior season."
 
Other notable returnees include juniors Emily TenEyck, Liz George and Kathryn Iwata. All three will be looked to to add a degree of leadership, while continuing their improvement on the course.
 
"Emily has made great improvements since this time last year and her hard work and dedication are evident," said Hoey.
 
Iwata returns to the cross country team after not having participated last season. She recorded a Top 20 finish (18th) at the ODAC Championships in 2008 as a first-year and Hoey is excited to have her back.
 
A junior, George is competing in just her second season and Hoey has already seen improvements from last season.
 
One other sophomore that returns from a season ago is Jessie Ykimoff. Despite not having raced a season ago, Ykimoff was selected by her teammates as the 2009 Teammate of the Year and Hoey is excited for her to make her debut this season.
 
With a strong nucleus of runners returning, Hoey knows that the returnees will be important in helping the large class of first-years in their development.
 
"Over half our team will be running in their first collegiate race this Saturday," noted Hoey.
 
She does not seem to be worried though. As noted earlier, she is seeing some similarities to the 2005 rookie class.
 
"This first-year class reminds me of the fall of 2005," Hoey pointed out. "On paper they were a very different team than what translated into the race results.  There was that 'X' factor that made all the difference. I am seeing some of those same qualities in this group."
 
While not winning the ODAC Championship last season was disappointing, Hoey is not worried about the mindset of her team entering 2010.
 
"Our seniors know what it is like to win and they want to go out on top. Winning ODACs is always the goal, this year it's a little bit different not having that target {as the defending champ} on your back," Hoey concluded.
 
The Generals open the 2010 season on Saturday when they host the W&L Invitational. The women's race is slated to begin at 10:00 am.
--GENERALS--