Aug. 25, 2009
The Washington State University cross country teams will be led by first-year coach Pete Julian and a solid group of experienced runners. Julian comes to WSU after a highly successful coaching stint at Metropolitan State College of Denver.
The Cougar men's cross country team will be comprised of a group of seniors who are expected to guide the younger talent to a successful season. The 2009 squad is made up of ten returning letterwinners, six of whom were consistent scorers last season, as well as a cadre of redshirt freshmen and two incoming freshmen who will help contribute.
The women's cross country squad are led by seniors Lisa Egami, Chelsea VanDeBrake, and Marisa Sandoval, junior Amanda Andrews, and sophomores Emily Farrar and Michelly Foley who are joined by three incoming freshmen.
2009 Cougar Men's Cross Country to Rely on Senior Leadership
Seniors Sam Ahlbeck (Renton, Wash.), Mark Moeller (Spokane, Wash.), and Dominic Smargiassi (Auburn, Wash) bring experience and leadership to a squad that has a large group of freshman and sophomores. These three runners have proven they can compete at a high level. Ahlbeck produced a solid 2008 season and then continued with success in the steeplechase last spring, posting a personal record and NCAA regional qualifying time of 8:53.46 at the Stanford Invitational. He placed fifth in both the Pacific-10 Championships and the NCAA West Regional meets and advanced to the NCAA Championships for the first time.
Four other returning runners expected to contribute throughout the season are juniors Dan Geib (Reno, Nev.) and David Hickerson (Spokane, Wash.). Sophomores Justin Englund (Federal Way, Wash.) and Jono Lafler (Maple Valley, Wash.) emerged to scoring positions in the Cougar pack last season as freshmen and will continue to improve through year-round training. Geib's full potential has yet to be tapped due to his previous injury-ridden seasons.
"We're really deep, perhaps deeper than this program ever has been. Jason Drake really left a great team in place. It was probably his best team that he had coming back," Cougar coach Pete Julian said. "I feel like we're in great shape and everybody looks relatively healthy, although it's early, of course. I'm pretty optimistic, it's a good group of guys."
Joining the WSU squad this fall is a pair of freshmen expected to help the Cougars right away. Andrew Gonzalez (Kennewick, Wash.) and Andrew Kimpel (Spokane, Wash.) bring young talent and depth to a team looking to improve further. Kimpel competed for highly-touted North Central High where he was named the 2008 Washington Gatorade Male Cross Country Athlete of the Year, and finished 10th at the 2008 Nike national meet.
The rest of the of the Cougar roster is comprised of redshirt freshmen Matt Cronrath (Odessa, Wash.), Drake da Ponte (Snoqualmie, Wash.), Steve Hicks (Spokane, Wash.), Jason Stoker ( Liberty Lake, Wash.), and Jayson Taylor (Liberty Lake, Wash.). Junior Luke Lemenager (Maple Valley, Wash.) and sophomore Peter Miller (Spokane, Wash.) also are expected to contribute to the squad this season.
With a cadre of veteran talent back, the 2009 Washington State men's squad looks to have an improved season while building for the future. The Cougars have trained hard to capitalize on last year's performance and have spent the summer preparing for the upcoming season. A major goal for the Cougar men is staying healthy throughout the season so the championship performances will reflect the talent on the team. The proof will be seen this fall.
"Not only are we deep," Julian said. "But we have good leadership and some talented guys so it's going to be one of the better teams that Washington State has had over the last 20 years."
Cougar Women's Cross Country Utilizing Young Talent
Seniors Lisa Egami (Coquitlam, British Columbia), Chelsea VanDeBrake (Yakima, Wash.), and Marisa Sandoval (Los Alamos, New Mexico) will provide leadership to the young talent joining the squad this season. During the 2009 indoor season, Egami ran on school record distance medley relay and set the school record for the mile with a time of 4:44.92. In the outdoor season she competed in the 1500m and finished seventh in the Pac-10 Championships and ran a personal record time of 4:21.25, the third-best time in school history. VanDeBrake and Sandoval have battled injuries in the past but have established a solid base for the season with a smooth summer training regimen.
Even though the team is young, the runners have showed they can compete at a high level already. Sophomores Emily Farrar (Bainbridge, Wash.) and Michelly Foley (Prineville, Ore.) both competed full seasons as freshman and placed in races near the end of the season. Junior Amanda Andrews (Gig Harbor, Wash.) has experienced two full seasons of competition and will help the team move forward. Andrews and Farrar had outstanding outdoor track seasons in the steeplechase, with both running times in the top ten for WSU all-time bests.
"Whereas the men's team is deep, the women are still not quite where we probably need to be and it's something we need to work on over the next couple of years," Julian said. "We do have some talent, certainly there are the returners like Marisa Sandoval and Lisa Egami, who should be able to make a big impact in the Pac-10."
Joining the WSU squad this season are three freshmen who have the opportunity to step in right away and make an impact. Caroline Austin (Chehalis, Wash.), Courtney Zalud (Colbert, Wash.), and Alyssa Andrews (Gig Harbor, Wash.) come to Pullman with solid experience that will benefit the program. Andrews was the state 4A cross country champion last fall and the 2008 Gatorade Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
Last season the Cougar women were able to utilize their young talent and are going to do the same this season. With leadership from the experienced runners, the squad will be able to improve and have a strong 2009 season.