After a 2005 campaign that saw the Crusaders break 11 indoor and seven outdoor records, the Valparaiso women's track and field team will look to shatter more records and move into the top half of the Mid-Continent Conference in 2006.
Head coach Tyler Wingard returns 15 athletes from last year's squad, a team that brought home fourth-place finishes in both the Mid-Con indoor and outdoor championships last season, and brings in six newcomers to complement the returnees.
Leading the way for the Crusaders in 2006 will be sophomore Melanie Wilson. Wilson burst onto the scene in a big way during her freshman campaign, breaking three school records in her first meet for Valpo. She was honored as the Mid-Con Newcomer of the Year after the outdoor championships, and was a member of both the indoor and outdoor All Mid-Con teams. Wilson also received Mid-Con Athlete of the Week accolades twice during the indoor season.
Wilson, who specializes in the jumps and hurdles, currently holds indoor and outdoor records in the long jump and the triple jump. Indoors, she broke records for the 200m, the 55m hurdles, and the 60m hurdles, as well as being a part of the record-setting 4x400m relay team. During the outdoor season, Wilson also set the 100m hurdles record and was a member of the record-setting shuttle hurdles relay.
The Crusaders also return an all-conference thrower in Emilie Marsicek. Marsicek, who was named All Mid-Con during both the indoor and outdoor seasons, set a school record during the outdoor season in the shot put. She also ranks among Valpo's all-time top-five performers indoors in the weight throw and shot put, as well as outdoors in the hammer throw, discus, and javelin.
Senior Jobeth Schmiesing is also coming off an All Mid-Con outdoor campaign. She received the all-conference honor after setting a school record in the 3000m steeplechase. Schmiesing was one of the top Crusader distance runners last season, both indoors and outdoors, and looks to continue setting the pace in 2006.
Maggie Zellner returns for her senior season after having been a part of two record-setting relays last year. Zellner anchored the indoor record-breaking 4x400m relay and was also a member of the outdoor shuttle hurdles relay. In addition, Zellner ranks among Valpo's all-time best in numerous sprint and hurdle events, both indoors and outdoors.
The Crusaders bring back another top sprinter in Patricia Kloth. Kloth led all Valpo sprinters in the 100m and 200m outdoors during her debut campaign, and moved into the all-time top-five in sprints during both seasons. In addition, she was a part of the record-setting shuttle hurdles relay. Kloth will also continue her development in the multi-events this season.
Valpo should be strong in the distance events, as Schmiesing and many other runners enter the track season on the heels of a successful cross country campaign. Danielle Nunnelly broke into the all-time top-five in numerous distance events last season, and will be called upon to pace the Crusaders' distance attack this year. Freshman Laura Rolf enters her inaugural track season after being named the Mid-Con cross country Newcomer of the Year. Also returning in the distance events for Valpo are Ashley Billstrom, Jennifer Plaskota, Lisa Schroeck, and Carrie Waterman.
Also returning in the sprint events for Valpo are Krissy Czapanskiy and Carissa Heinold, both of whom contributed to depth in the sprints last season and look to move toward the top this year.
The Crusaders have many athletes joining Wilson in the jump events in 2006. Heinold broke into the all-time top-five in the indoor long jump last season, while Czapanskiy, Julie Luloff, and Alicia Zinnecker also return for Valpo. Throwing alongside Marsicek in the infield will be returnee Amanda Hyttel and transfer Donielle Redwanc.
Valpo's schedule has been set up to have the Crusaders peaking for the Mid-Con championships.
The indoor season kicks off December 10, as the Brown and Gold compete at the Illinois State Earlybird Invitational. The Crusaders then take several weeks off over the holidays before returning to action January 21 at the Chicago Invitational. Valpo will compete each of the next four weekends, leading up to the Mid-Con Indoor Championships, held in Bloomington, Ill. February 26-27.
The outdoor season begins April 1, as the Crusaders travel to DePauw to take part in a quadrangular meet. The Brown and Gold will compete each of the following four weekends, before taking a weekend off in preparation for the Mid-Con Outdoor Championships May 11-13 in Chicago, Ill.
The Crusaders have many student-athletes who should compete for individual championships and All-Conference honors. The team finish will depend on their leadership, combined with the continued development of the returnees and the infusion of talent from the newcomers.