Jan. 6, 2003
Bloomington, Ind. - The Indiana women's cross country team prepared diligently in the offseason for a year they knew could come to fruition. Their hard work paid off as the team finished 14th in the nation, its best finish and first NCAA appearance since 1990 when the Hoosiers ended 13th.
The year began with the Indiana Open, hosted by IU at its home course. In a strong, early showing the Hoosiers paced all participants as four of the top five places in the 5K event were held by IU runners in a field that included 2001 NCAA Championship-qualifying South Florida.
Head coach Judy Wilson combined a young group for one of the most improved team efforts in the nation.
In her first cross country race ever, freshman Kelly Siefker ran well at the Indiana Open. After participating in track in the spring and soccer in the fall, Siefker took the jump into cross country for her collegiate career.
Junior Audrey Giesler got off to an early, successful start finishing second overall with a time of 18:15, a full minute faster than her time in the same race a year before.
Classes had yet to start and freshmen roommates Jessica Gall and Lindsay Hattendorf were making their mark on women's cross country at IU.
The Hoosiers then traveled to West Lafayette, Ind., and the Purdue Open to run the same course where the Big Ten Championships would be held nearly two months later. Siefker, Larra Overton, Valerie Rago and Allison Miller each finished in the top 16 at the Open as Siefker led all runners with her third place finish.
Indiana then returned to Bloomington to host the Indiana Intercollegiates and participate in the team's second full meet of the season. Despite extremely stormy weather that rocked neighboring communities and the fact that many teams could not make the trip to Bloomington, the Hoosiers finished second in the 64th annual running of the Intercollegiates.
Individually, Hoosier Mindy Peterson took champion honors with her 5K time of 19:02. Gall took third with a time of 19:11 while Hattendorf finished fourth.
The next stop on the schedule was the Roy Griak Invitiational in St. Paul, Minn., hosted by the University of Minnesota. As a team, IU placed fifth while Peterson again led the Hoosiers with with a 13th place finish in 21:35 on the 6K course.
With its performance at the Griak Invite, the Hoosiers landed a No. 27 national ranking heading into the Notre Dame Invitational. In a field of 24 teams including No. 2 Stanford and the third-ranked Fighting Irish, IU finished fifth behind the Cardinals, Wiscsonsin, Notre Dame and Washington. It was a career day at the Invite in South Bend, Ind., as four of IU's top five runners turned in their career-best 5K efforts. Peterson was 17th with her time of 18:03 while Giesler (18th, 18:04), Gall (30th, 18:22) and Hattendorf (52nd, 18:33) rounded out the top four Hoosiers.
The team then headed to Terre Haute for the Pre-NCAA 6K meet where the Hoosiers, just out of the rankings, finished ahead of No. 15 Boston College, No. 18 Michigan, No. 24 William & Mary, No. 28 Washington and No. 30 Yale.
For their superb effort at the Pre-NCAA meet, the Hoosiers found themselves ranked in the nation's top 20. In the FinishLynx/NCAA Division I national poll IU was ranked 18th and staring down a two-week rest in preparation for the Big Ten Championship.
The No. 18 ranking was the Hoosiers' best ranking since the end of the 1990 season when IU was 13th at the NCAA Championship.
Heading to the conference championship at Purdue, IU was confident in a strong finish to the league season and rode that confidence to a third place finish after finishing ninth in 2001. It marked the best finish for Indiana in the Big Ten women's race since the 1990 team won the title. For the first time in school history, three IU women's runners earned all-league laurels in the same season. Giesler ran a career-best 17:49 over 5K to finish sixth, followed by Gall (11th, career-best 17:58.9) and junior Becky Obrecht (14th, 18:05).
The NCAA Regionals loomed in the distance as the No. 20 Hoosiers returned to West Lafayette and finished fourth in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships. With the solid all-around performance, Indiana became one of the most-improved programs in the nation after finishing 12th in the region last season.
Peterson led the charge for IU with her time of 21:42 while Giesler finished just behind her with a time of 21:46.8.
The season ended sweetly as the Hoosiers gave their all to the NCAA Championship, finishing 14th overall, the best finish since the 1990 team ended 13th. True to tradition, Peterson led Indiana with her time of 20:55.0, good for 42nd place and a career-best. Giesler placed 57th overall with a time of 21:03.3 while Gall finished 89th and in the Hoosiers third position. Hattendorf's time of 21:35.0 and Obrecht's 21:40.0 were also personal bests.
IU now looks ahead to spring competition and next season where they will continue to build a strong Hoosier program on the success of 2002.