June 8, 2000
The 1999 women's cross country squad made the largest single improvement by any team at the Big Ten Championship since 1994. Such an improvement in 2000 would mean a Big Ten Championship for the Hoosiers, something Head Coach Judy Bogenschutz has on her list of goals for this Indiana team.
"This group has what it takes to finish in the top two in the Big Ten and earn a bid to the NCAA's," Bogenschutz said.
The last time the Hoosiers found themselves in such a position was in 1990, the last time the women qualified for the NCAA Championship as a team and the last time that they finished as high as they did at Big Ten's last season. That team from a decade ago won the Big Ten title and featured three-time All-American Michelle Dekkers.
Two of the eight letterwinners from a season ago are running races that remind many of the late 80's and early 90's when Indiana's women's cross country was in the national spotlight. Sophomores Amanda Bell and Allyson Hammond are primed to lead the Hoosiers back into that spotlight.
"I think Amanda and Allyson compliment each other very well. Amanda sees the big picture and is a high level competitor," Bogenschutz said. "Allyson has improved tremendously in her freshman season. She had a solid cross country season, but her improvement has really come in track. She has developed a winning mentality, and I am excited to see her now take that to cross country."
Bell placed sixth at the Big Ten Championship, Indiana's best finisher at the conference meet since Dekkers won the event in 1990. She was the Hoosiers' top runner in all seven meets that she competed in and posted the top NCAA Regional finish (15th) by a Hoosier since 1993 (Nikki Suever, 10th).
Hammond was one of Indiana's top four runners in each of the seven meets she competed in last season. She was the team's number three runner at the Big Ten meet as she finished 29th and was the team's number two runner at the NCAA Regionals with an impressive 18th place finish.
Bell and Hammond will be joined by a senior, four juniors and one more sophomore as Indiana welcomes back eight experienced runners and loses just one contributor in Monica Hostetler.
Junior Erin Womble was one of Indiana's top four in six different meets in 1999.
"Erin is still developing her mental approach to racing. She has proven that she really wants to succeed, and it's those types of people that make up the all-important supporting cast," Bogenschutz said.
With five athletes scoring each meet, support for Bell and Hammond, both All-American candidates, is vital to IU's success.
Junior Stephanie Magley was a key contributor last season as she was one of Indiana's top five three times, including at the NCAA Regionals.
Senior Courtney Bell will look to take the success that she experienced in track in 1999-2000 and use it in cross country.
"Courtney is primarily a middle distance runner. This is the first season that she has trained year round, so we expect her to be one of our top seven runners," Bogenschutz said.
The same holds true for sophomore Whitney Bevins, who competed in four meets last year and junior Suzanne Botkin, who ran in six meets.
Redshirt freshman Lauren Weddell is one person Bogenschutz feels may surprise some in her first season.
"Lauren was a nice surprise during track. We got her on a good training program and her success in track has got her excited for cross country," Bogenschutz said.