For the second consecutive season, the Washington and Lee women's track and field team enters the year with the largest roster in program history. Last season, the Generals had 38 athletes, and this winter, the team opens the 2018-19 campaign with 40 competitors on the squad.
"It was a dramatic increase from two years ago to last season in terms of the size of the roster," Head Coach Dana Freeman said. "This year, we continued to grow but it wasn't such a drastic jump, so it has been a smoother transition during our early season training."
In 2017-18, 45 percent of the Blue and White's roster was first-years, and with that came the growing pains one would expect from a younger group. The Generals took fifth at both the Indoor and Outdoor ODAC Championships last season, but with 15 sophomores now having had a full year of experience, the future looks much brighter in the years ahead.
"Having those 15 sophomores is just a huge advantage," Freeman explained. "They all learned the processes of a year-long season, and that knowledge and experience can only make them better this year and moving forward."
Along with the sophomores, W&L brought in 11 first-years this year, to go with six juniors and eight seniors. In the past, a key to W&L's success has been the leadership of the senior class and that remains true this season.
"Our eight seniors have committed to the success of this program since day one of their first years," Freeman stated. "That group has been instrumental in getting us to the size we are now. If not for their passion for track and field and the love for this team, we wouldn't be the be team we are today."
A large portion of the senior leadership comes from the distance crew, which includes three seniors who have garnered multiple All-ODAC accolades.
"The four all-region runners we had this fall in cross country (seniors Maggie Seybold and Samantha Yates, and juniors Julia Moody and Katie Bearup) will be important for us this year and they allow us to spread out across events," Assistant Coach Michael Dager said. "Having Seybold and Yates back this year will be really good for us in a lot of ways. We can add additional strength to the middle distance events, and they would really like to try and get a strong DMR on the track."
Seybold holds both the indoor and outdoor 800m school records, but was hampered by injuries last season and only competed at the Outdoor ODAC Championship in the 5,000m. Yates has won six individual ODAC titles in her career, but missed the 2017 cross country season due to injury, which slowed her times on the track last spring. Even still, she won the 5,000m at the outdoor conference championship.
Moody earned All-ODAC laurels in the 3,000m and the DMR last season, while Bearup has scored in three conference events in her career.
All told, over half of the returning members of the cross country team have scored in an event at the Indoor or Outdoor ODAC Championships, including senior Kirsten McMichael, and sophomores Katie Harris, Kathryn Fagan, Anna Nelson and Claire Smith, who have each garnered All-ODAC citations.
Sophomore Annie Cunningham also returns on the distance side. A W&L soccer player in the fall, Cunningham secured All-ODAC recognition in three events at last year's indoor meet.
Senior Jessica Rosenwasser will be called upon to shepherd a young group of sprinters, which includes sophomore Samantha Kindsvater, along with a strong group of first-years. Kindsvater scored in the 60m at last year's indoor championship.
"Rosenwasser's role as a senior leader on this team is valuable with her influence on the young sprint squad that we have," Freeman explained. "A focus of ours during last year's recruiting process was to bring in some quality sprinters that could compliment the individuals already on the team. The strength of this squad is going to be highlighted in the relays this year!"
From a hurdling perspective, junior Nikki Doherty is the standout returner. She has garnered All-ODAC laurels three times in her career already and holds the fourth-fastest time in program history in the 60m hurdles.
"Doherty had a great sophomore season," Freeman said. "We are looking for her to build off that performance and see how far she can take it this year."
The Generals will have three competitors in the pole vault for the first time since the 2014-15 season. Sophomore Bella Fucigna will be the lone returner in the event.
"It will be exciting to have three on the runway again and reestablish that tradition in the pole vault that we've had in the past," Freeman stated.
The long jump, high jump and triple jump will be represented by four returners looking to move up their conference placings this season.
"It's the same crew as last year in the jumps, with juniors Alexa Castellana and Sarah Leonard, and sophomores Julie Lowe and Leah Green," Freeman said. "They all showed great growth and improvement in their personal bests last year, and we are looking to gain some additional points from a more experienced jumps group this season."
Castellana scored in four events last season (indoor high jump, indoor long jump, indoor triple jump and outdoor triple jump), while Lowe scored in the outdoor long jump.
Sophomore Emma Coleman will be the mainstay in the throwing events for the Generals. She's coming off a season where she registered the second-best hammer throw in program history, while also recording a W&L Top 5 mark in the weight throw.
"Coleman had an incredible first year picking up implements that she had never thrown before," Freeman noted. "I'm eager to see what she is capable of this season."
While she may not be able to score a point for the team during the conference meets, the coaching staff is enthusiastic about what student assistant coach, junior Abby Keller, will provide this season.
"She brings a lot of dedication and commitment to our team," Freeman beamed. "She is a unifying force and we appreciate everything that she does for us."
The Generals open the 2018-19 season on Friday and Saturday at the Bast-Cregger Invitational. Coach Freeman is confident in what the team can achieve, but also wants to see how this team can grow.
"We are young but also strong," Freeman explained. "Our greatest strength is in our numbers, and that is what gives us energy at every practice and meet. But most importantly, every year this team comes in and challenges themselves in new ways to find out what they are made of, and those are the lessons that carry over to life beyond the track and beyond Washington and Lee."
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