It is a youthful and small squad that will hit the course for the 2010 Valparaiso women’s cross country season, as the Crusaders have just eight runners, including just two upperclassmen. But head coach Mike Straubel has confidence in his squad’s ability to come together as a unit as the team looks to move up the Horizon League standings this season.
The lone senior on this year’s squad is fifth-year senior Whitney Bowman. Bowman returns for her final year of eligibility after finishing among the Crusaders’ top-five runners in all six races last season. She was the second Valpo runner across the line at the Commodore Classic and the Bradley Classic, while she ran a season-best 5K time of 20:00 flat at the Notre Dame Invitational. Junior Kristine Clay is the only other upperclassman on this year’s squad, returning after competing just one time in 2009 due to injury.
A pair of sophomores also return for their second season with the Crusader program. Haley Kerlin ran all six races for Valpo as a rookie, finishing among the Crusaders’ top-five at the Bradley Classic and running a season-best 5K time of 21:13 at Notre Dame. Ali Olson competed twice for the Crusaders as a freshman, running at the Commodore Classic and the Bradley Classic.
Four freshmen will join the Valpo squad as well in 2010, getting the immediate opportunity to contribute to the team’s success. Claire Johnson was an All-State honoree in Minnesota in both cross country and track and field, while Grace Shemwell and Grace Watkins both qualified for state championship cross country meets in Iowa and Illinois, respectively. Nicole Zehel also joins the Crusaders this year from Michigan.
The Crusader Open will be contested for the 22nd time in 2010, and for the 17th straight year it will serve as Valpo’s season-opening meet. Action at Sunset Hills Farm tomorrow begins at 5 p.m. with a 5K course.
Two weeks later, Valpo makes the short trip to West Lafayette to compete at the Indiana Intercollegiates, while on Oct. 1, a brief jaunt to the east is in the cards as the Crusaders will run at the Notre Dame Invitational. Valpo’s final tuneup comes on Oct. 16 as it travels downstate to cover the course at the Evansville Invitational.
With four races under their belts, the Crusaders will aim to be peaking for the 2010 Horizon League Championships, hosted this year by Cleveland State University and scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 30. The NCAA Great Lakes Regional is slated to be run Saturday, Nov. 13 in Bloomington, Ind., and if any Crusaders qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championships, they would compete Monday, Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Ind.