Improved Consistency the Goal for MU Women's Cross Country

Hannah Frett returns for her junior campaign after a breakout 2011.

MILWAUKEE - The Marquette University women's cross country team returns this fall with a crop of runners looking for consistent improvement in the 2012 campaign.

"I believe that our women's team will have more consistency than last year," sixth-year head coach Mike Nelson said. "Looking at our roster, I think we will see our top five or seven runners be separated by 20 seconds. We could potentially have someone from each class lead us at different times throughout the year."

MU returns 10 letterwinners from a team that placed ninth in the BIG EAST Conference and 17th at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional in 2011.

Melissa Budelier and Christina Sliepka have been named the team's co-captains entering the 2012 campaign as the only seniors on the roster.

Sliepka is one of the more consistent runners after finishing in MU's top five in all seven races last year.

"Christina (Sliepka) will be in our top five or seven each race," Nelson said. "She made great improvements in the track season, which should lead to improvements in cross country. She is going to be a strong competitor every time out and is someone the other ladies can key off of all season." 

Aside from Sliepka, Nelson says that he could see sophomores Elisia Meyle and Kenzie Vicker along with junior Hannah Frett leading Marquette.

"Right now it's really difficult to say who are top-five runners are going to be," Nelson said. "They have all made tremendous improvements in the offseason and are all very close in times so far this fall."

As a freshman last season, Meyle was the Golden Eagles' top finisher in four races, including the conference championship and NCAA regional meet where she placed in the top-75 overall.

"It's very likely that Meyle could lead us this season, but I think we have others who can compete with her as well," Nelson said.

One of those other runners that could be at the forefront is Frett, who will look to build off of the experience she gained last season. In 2011, she had five top-seven finishes for Marquette, including a seventh-place finish at the regional race with a six-kilometer time of 23:08.  

"I see Hannah (Frett) as the leader of the women's group," Nelson said. "She is going to go out at a 5:45- or 5:50-pace and I want everyone to try and run with her. If you feel like you can beat Hannah, then go ahead with a mile to go. She is going to be solid every meet."

Vicker will look to get back on track this season after suffering an injury that kept her out of MU's final three races last fall. In two of the first three races of 2011, she finished with the Golden Eagles' top time.

"I think Kenzie will be a consistent top-five or seven finisher this season," Nelson said. "If she is healthy and training well, which she is right now, she could lead us. What I love about her is that she is a competitor and tough as nails."

Junior Sarah Ball has seen her confidence grow as a result of her training. Having only scored once for MU in the first five races last season, Ball came on strong towards the end of the year and turned in 76th- and 93rd-place finishes at the conference and regional competitions, respectively.

"She ran her first 60-mile week ever, and her training is going great," Nelson said. "As her training gets better, her confidence improves, which is something that will help her in the longer distance races."

Four freshmen will look to make an immediate impact for the Golden Eagles this season. Nelson believes that newcomers Kellie Greenwood, Molly Hanson, Sarah Poirier and Kayla Spencer have all shown potential in the team's workouts.

"I think every single one of our freshmen could be in the top seven this fall," Nelson said. "But it comes down to who will be able to adjust to collegiate-level running."

After competing in the NIU Huskie Open to begin the year on Sept. 7, MU will round out the month of September at the National Catholic Championships (Sept. 14) at Notre Dame and the Greater Louisville Classic (Sept. 29).




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