2004 Season Preview (8/11/04)
When Judy Wilson took over the Indiana Cross Country program in 1998 she planned to return the Hoosiers to the national scene. Seven years later, IU has done just that-posting its first back-to-back NCAA Championship appearances since 1989 and 1990 including a 14th-place finish in 2002.
Even more impressive is the team's finish in one of the toughest regions in the country. IU has finished fourth in the Great Lakes Region in both 2002 and 2003, competing with strong cross country programs such as Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Michigan.
"As a staff, we have reached our goal of returning Indiana back to the national level," said Wilson. "Now we are looking to be one of the consistent top ten teams in the country."
Depth is a good start and IU returnees Mindy Peterson (Milan, Ill./Rockridge), Jessica Gall (West Lafayette, Ind./West Lafayette), Kelly Siefker (Vandalia, Ohio/Vandalia), Lindsay Hattendorf (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton), Allison Miller (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North), Larra Overton (New Albany, Ind./New Albany), Julie Shields (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) and Kristin Whitezell (Hanover Park, Ill./ Glenbard North) will all return to the team this year and all eight have competed at the NCAA Championships over the past two years. Their experience on the national level will surely help the team achieve their goals this year.
In 2003, Peterson was the first Hoosier since Mary Beth Driscoll in 1989 to achieve All-American honors after finishing 46th overall with a time of 20:50.1 at the NCAA Championships.
Siefker made great strides in 2003, and she will be looked upon to make an even bigger impact on this year's squad.
"Kelly has been a tremendous example of what hard work and incredible focus can do for someone," said Wilson. "She went from 247th in the '02 NCAA meet to 137 in the 2003 meet. She also broke into the top 30 in the country in the steeplechase this year."
Gall also will be looked to as a leader in the upcoming season. After sitting out the cross country season, Gall had successful indoor and outdoor track and field seasons.
Seniors Shields and Overton will provide solid leadership. After battling back from bad asthma, Shields competed in her first NCAA Championships in 2003, where she finished with a career-best 22:23.0. In addition, Overton's Big Ten and Regional races were much improved performances from her first three races and was instrumental in getting the team to the NCAA's.
"Primarily an 800m runner in track, Larra caught on in terms of how to race a 6k," said Wilson.
Whitezell will be looked upon to step up and run well during the 2004 season. Wilson feels Whitezell is ready to take the next step.
"Kristin had a big race at a much needed time at the regional and showed what she can do at this level."
Wilson will welcome three freshman to the team this year. All three are expected to make an immediate impact with the start of the cross country season in August. The freshman class includes Lauren Keefe (Downers Grove, Ill./DG-North), Nikki Peterson(Riverton, N.Y./Riverton) and Maura Ratcliff (Bloomington, Ind./South)
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