Following a 2006 campaign in which the Crusaders broke five indoor and seven outdoor records, the Valparaiso women's track and field team will aim to break more records and move into the top half of the Mid-Continent Conference in 2007.
Ryan Moore begins his first season as Crusader head coach after spending three seasons as an assistant. Moore returns 15 letterwinners, including five athletes who received All-Conference honors in 2006, and brings in 13 newcomers.
Leading the returnees is junior Melanie Wilson, a four-time All-Conference honoree. Last season, the versatile Wilson broke her own school records in both the indoor and outdoor triple jump, the 60m hurdles indoors, and the 100m hurdles outdoors. She currently holds five individual Valpo records, as well as being a part of three record-setting relay teams.
Joining Wilson in the sprints and jumps is sophomore Amanda Body. Body burst onto the scene in a big way as a freshman, receiving All Mid-Con honors at the league's indoor championships after winning the long jump with a school-record leap of 18'8". Body also broke Crusader records in the outdoor long jump, as well as both the indoor and outdoor 200m dash in her debut campaign.
Senior distance runner Ashley Billstrom left her mark on the Valpo record books last season as well. Billstrom received indoor All-Conference honors for being a part of Valpo's league-champion distance medley relay team, and followed with a fantastic outdoor season running the steeplechase. Billstrom shaved over 30 seconds off of the Valpo record in the event and captured the league title by better than seven seconds, qualifying for the NCAA Regional Championship.
Senior Danielle Nunnelly also returns in the distance events for Valpo after receiving indoor and outdoor All-Conference accolades last year. Nunnelly set a program record in the 800m run during the 2006 outdoor campaign, and is coming off of a cross country season in which she received her fourth consecutive All Mid-Con honor.
Laura Rolf returns for her sophomore campaign in the distance events after an incredible cross country season. Rolf, who received indoor All-Conference honors last year, knocked over a minute off of her school record in the 6K during the 2006 cross country campaign and earned All-Region honors after finishing third at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional.
Three other Crusaders: Rachael Button, Lauren McLaughlin and Jennifer Plaskota return for the 2007 track season after competing for the Crusaders during the cross country campaign. In addition, four freshman join the track team from the cross country team, which finished in second at the Mid-Con Championships.
Valparaiso returns three athletes in the throws this year, led by Emelie Marsicek, who holds the school record in the outdoor shot put and ranks among Valpo's all-time top-five in five other events. Julie Flowers and Amanda Hyttel also return and will be joined by two freshman in the throws.
Carissa Heinold, Patricia Kloth and Alicia Zinnecker return in 2007 for the Crusaders in the sprints, and will be joined by six newcomers. Heinold and Zinnecker will also contribute in the jumps, while many of the freshman will see action in the jumps and hurdles.
Valpo kicks off the indoor season with a meet December 9 at Illinois State, and follows with over a month off for the holidays before returning to the track at the Chicagoland Invitational January 20. The Crusaders will follow with three meets in a four-week span before competing at the Mid-Con Indoor Championships in Bloomington, Ill. on February 24-25.
The Crusaders' outdoor season begins April 7 at the Indiana Relays in Bloomington, Ind. Valpo will run three of the next four weeks, including taking part in future Horizon League foe Butler's Twilight meet, before heading to Kansas City, Mo. for the Mid-Con Outdoor Championships May 11-13. The NCAA Regional meet will be held May 25-26 in Columbia, Mo.
Valparaiso has a multitude of well-rounded talent returning for one final run in the Mid-Con in 2007. If those talented athletes continue to improve, and the newcomers contribute where needed, the Crusaders have a legitimate shot at a top-three finish in the conference.