Cross Country Season Preview: Golden Eagles Look For Improvements in 2010
Sept. 1, 2010
MILWAUKEE - The Marquette University men's and women's cross country squads will begin their 2010 seasons Friday at the Badger Classic in head coach Mike Nelson's fourth year with the program. The men return a very experienced squad, while the women will look to rebuild with the assistance of three experienced seniors.
Marquette Men's Cross Country
The men's cross country team returns all of its top finishers from 2009, including senior Brice Cleland, MU's top finisher in the BIG EAST Championships and the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. Cleland will serve as team captain along with fellow senior Peter Bolgert.
Juniors Nick Szczech and Blake Johnson look to continue their development and remain among MU's top finishers after each making the Preliminary Round of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships during the spring. Szczech and Johnson each led the Golden Eagles at two cross country meets during 2009, while Johnson also placed second on the squad at the BIG East Championships and the Great Lakes Regional.
"Everybody is coming back for the men and we have a lot of talent, including the depth guys who will be runners 5-12 for us," Nelson said. "I think Nick, Brice and Blake will consistently be our top-three finishers, but it wouldn't really surprise me to see another couple runners step into that mix occasionally. The men's team is strong and deep. "
Bolgert, an ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Second Team Academic All-American, returns after a dominant outdoor track season for the Golden Eagles and will provide a steady presence among MU's top finishers.
After a surprising freshman campaign, sophomore Connor Callahan returns and should be a factor at the top of the lineup following a third-place finish for MU at the Great Lakes Regional.
"Keith Schueller and Patrick Keeley are ready for big jumps in their performance." Nelson said. "Patrick has made tremendous strides, he is back to where he was his freshman year when he made it to Junior Nationals and he was really running well. Jack Senefeld has really worked hard this summer and should see a big improvement."
Even with improved marks from everyone on the roster, the Marquette men's cross country team faces a steep climb into the upper echelon of the BIG EAST.
"I have never been more aware about what we are up against and this is the best group since I arrived at Marquette," Nelson said. "Trying to go from a good team to a great team is really tough in this league. In order for us to get into the top five-or-six we are going to have to beat a great team and it's tough."
Marquette Women's Cross Country
A transition phase will assuredly face the Marquette women's cross country squad in 2010 as it loses program stalwarts Jayne Grebsinki, Anna Weber and Amanda Beggs. Losing such experienced runners is a concern for head coach Mike Nelson, but roster overturn is always a great chance for new leaders to take over.
"We know we have to come together as a team this year," head coach Mike Nelson said. "In years past we have been able to always rely on certain runners but this year everybody has to get the job done together. That cast of characters is gone and it will be a lot of fun just to see how the current runners perform in each race."
"If our captains (Johnson, Dalrymple and Pelzel) are healthy and on the line together they can do some damage. They are very talented and have all had great summers of training in addition to good track seasons," Nelson said.
Johnson and Dalrymple will each look to take advantage of the opportunity in their third years at MU. Both showed tremendous promise during their times at Northwestern College and Tulane, respectively, and have hung around the top finishers during their time with the Golden Eagles.
Johnson was an all-American in cross country at the 2007 NAIA National Championships, following a third-place performance, while Dalrymple was an all-conference performer in Conference USA as a freshman with the Green Wave.
Pelzel has faced injury issues throughout her career, including one which plagued the end of her 2009 cross country campaign, but should be ready to go by the first meet on Sept. 3.
Besides the three captains Nelson believes a group of third-year runners is ready to make a jump.
"I think that some of the women who are in their third year are also ready to make big contributions. Kate Horan, Courtney Kelly and Carly Windt all are ready to step up and have their best season yet."
For the Golden Eagles to be successful, the aforementioned athletes will need to keep MU near the top of the pack while a group of seven newcomers will be expected to provide depth.
In addition to the newcomers, sophomore Christina Sliepka has shown improvement over the summer and could put in a good second year with the program.
"Christina Sliepka has put in a really good summer. She has had several weeks of really high mileage and has done a nice job training. I know she is ready to have a much better season than she did her freshman year."
Nelson sees an exciting year ahead for the women as they attempt to improve despite the loss of many top runners from 2009.
"I am really excited about this group and I am really looking forward to watching the women's team race," Nelson said. "I think that it is going to be a challenge, but (improvement over last year) is definitely a realistic goal for us."
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