Coming off of a runner-up finish in the 2006 Mid-Continent Conference Championships, the best league finish in program history, the Valparaiso women’s cross country team moves into the Horizon League with high aspirations for the 2007 campaign, led by one of the nation’s best runners in junior Laura Rolf.
Through two years at Valpo, Rolf has already put together a resume nearly unparalleled in Crusader history. Last year, the junior kicked off the season with a win at Valpo’s Crusader Invitational, helping the Crusaders win the event by one point over Notre Dame. The win was one of four top-three finishes for Rolf on the season. Later in the season at the NCAA Pre-National meet, Rolf lowered her own school record in the 6K by an astounding 1:19.
Two weeks later, she broke her own 6K record again, running a 20:45.35 at the Mid-Con Championships, good for a third-place finish and a second straight First Team All-Conference honor. Rolf went on to finish third at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, earning All-Region honors for the second consecutive year, and 41st at the NCAA National meet. She continued her superb running during the indoor track season, picking up All-American accolades in the indoor mile.
Joining Rolf as a returning All-Conference runner is senior Rachael Button. Button posted a fifth-place finish at the Crusader Invitational last season. She surpassed her previous personal best in the 5K and moved into eighth place on Valpo’s all-time chart in the event, running an 18:24 at the Notre Dame Invitational. Button went on to finish 12th at the Mid-Con Championships, earning Second Team All-Conference honors for the first time in her career.
Valpo will receive leadership from two other seniors as well. Lisa Schroeck competed five times for the Crusaders last season, finishing 35th at the Mid-Con Championships, while Lauren McLaughlin returns for her final season after missing the entire 2006 campaign. Alyssa Bradford, Rachel Howell, and Emily Thompson each return for their sophomore season after getting a year of collegiate experience under their belts in 2006.
The Crusaders also bring in seven newcomers to the cross country squad, from a variety of places. Sara Christensen, Katie Krieter, and Windy Santa Cruz all join the team for the 2007 season after running track at Valpo last year. Whitney Bowman and Caitlin Sauerhage will each be first-year Crusaders after transferring in from Purdue and Indiana, respectively. Two first-year freshmen in Jorie Ballun and Katie Hennessey round out the 2007 squad.
Valparaiso’s schedule, as put together by 21st year head coach Mike Straubel, aims to have the Crusaders peaking for the Horizon League Championships. Valpo will host the league championship meet in its first season as a member of the league on October 27 at Sunset Hills Farm. The Crusaders will host the season-opening Crusader Open on September 7, and will compete at Boston College, Purdue, Notre Dame, Evansville and Indiana State throughout the season in preparation for the Horizon League Championships, NCAA Great Lakes Regional and the NCAA Cross Country Championships.