2012 Spartan Women’s Cross Country Preview
CLEVELAND, Ohio – With a returning national qualifier and five runners back from last year's regional lineup, the Case Western Reserve University women's cross country team will look to make another run at an NCAA Championship appearance during the fall of 2012.
Under the guidance of 12th-year Head Coach Kathy Lanese, the Spartans have sent at least one individual qualifier to the NCAA Division III Championship Meet in eight-straight seasons. During that streak, the Spartans have qualified six times as a team.
"Our season goals are always geared towards nationals," said Lanese, who has received multiple Coach of the Year awards from the University Athletic Association, United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, and the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches. "We have several runners who gained significant experience as youngsters last season, and we have a group of veterans who are ready to take the next step in their careers."
Last season, two individuals represented the squad at the national meet hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, including current senior co-captain Corin Bowen (Midland, Mich./Bullock Creek). A two-time UAA All-Academic selection, Bowen finished 154th nationally last season with a time of 22:38.16. The fourth-year Spartan earned her spot at nationals after an all-region finish (15th) at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship hosted by Oberlin College last November. A two-time national qualifier, Bowen also earned All-UAA Second Team honors via an 11th-place performance (22:56.84) at the conference championship in Chicago.
"Corin (Bowen) has two-straight years of national experience, but this is going to be the first season in which we look to her to lead the pack," said Lanese. "She has always been a clutch performer during championship season, and her experience and work ethic should allow her to do a great job in the lead position."
Lanese also returns four other runners who were in the lineup when the team placed fifth in the Great Lakes Region last November. Included in that group is junior Brooke Simpson (Solon, Ohio/Solon), sophomores Erica Bauerbach (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles North) and Kristen Ruckstuhl (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) and senior co-captain Thea Emmons (St. Louis, Mo./Parkway North).
Simpson, who ran at the NCAA Championship Meet as a freshman in 2010, turned in a season-best 6k (23:33.49/82nd) at last season's regional race. Simpson also placed sixth at the season-opening Bill Sudeck Classic and finished in the top 50 in five-of-six races.
"Brooke (Simpson) loves to compete, and with another strong track season on top of last year's cross country performance, I expect her to step up into one of our top spots this fall," said Lanese.
Bauerbach and Ruckstuhl each came in as highly-touted recruits and did not disappoint during their rookie campaigns. Bauerbach placed fourth in her first collegiate race (Sudeck Classic) and went on to post four more top-50 finishes. Bauerbach's top time came at regionals when she finished in 23:18.02—good for 69th place. Ruckstuhl saved her best performances for championship season, placing 25th at the UAA Meet with a time of 23:46.25 and 40th at the Great Lakes Regional in 22:47.22.
"Both Erica (Bauerbach) and Kristen (Ruckstuhl) had outstanding freshmen seasons," noted Lanese. "Erica was a consistent scorer for us all year even though she struggled with injuries, and Kristen really came on strong during championship season."
Emmons ran her best 6k time of the season (24:14.54) at regionals and was 63rd at the UAA Championship in late October. "Thea worked her way into the lineup last fall, and we're going to count a great deal on her experience this season," said Lanese.
Also returning for Lanese's 21-runner roster are seniors Alyssa Harker (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) and Megan Milne (Naperville, Ill./Naperville North) along with juniors Emilie Dunham (Ithaca, N.Y./Ithaca) and Allison Magee (Upper Arlington, Ohio/Upper Arlington), and sophomores Anna Duewiger (Harrison City, Pa./Penn-Trafford) and MacKenzie Michalk (Uniontown, Ohio/Lake).
In addition, Lanese welcomes one of her largest recruiting classes with 10 freshmen joining the squad this fall. Much like last season, several of the newcomers are expected to contribute scoring immediately.
"I'm always excited to see which runners come to camp in the best shape and ready to win a spot in the lineup," said Lanese. "We have a deep roster mixed with veterans and newcomers, so there will be a lot of competition for the top spots this season."
The Spartans' annually daunting schedule begins on Saturday, September 1, with the 12th Annual Bill Sudeck Classic at Squire Valleevue Farm. The team will gun for a sixth All-Ohio Championship in seven years at Cedarville University on Sept. 29.
The UAA Championship will take place on October 27 at the University of Rochester (N.Y.), with NCAA Regionals at Anderson University (Ind.) on November 10 and the NCAA Championship at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Ind.) on Nov. 17.
"Last year, we came into the season with a pretty young roster that I felt needed time to develop," noted Lanese. "There is still plenty of potential to be reached, but we displayed solid growth from start to finish last season, and I am expecting a lot of our runners to perform at much higher levels this fall. As always, we'll need to stay healthy, persevere, and develop great team chemistry to reach our goals."