Aug. 16, 2004
Jason Drake, entering his third season as Washington State University's cross country head coach, fields young teams for both the men and women. His rosters include strong crews of returning sophomores and another large freshman recruiting class flush with talent. Struggling to field full teams in his first two years as coach, Drake's 2004 squad has impressive depth and ability. "I'm excited to have numbers and excited to have talent," Drake said. "The last two years on both sides, it's been tough to fill events and get people in there. Finally, we can start to do that." WSU Men's Team The WSU men's cross country team looks to improve upon last season's sixth place finish in the Pac-10 and reach the NCAA Championships. "We had a great meet at the conference a year ago but still finished sixth. That just gives you an idea of how deep our conference is. It never gets easier in the Pac-10," Drake said. The young but talented team is comprised of mostly sophomores and freshmen but has some experienced senior leadership to rely on. Seniors Mike Heidt, Danny Wolf and Justin Ireland will lead the Cougar men, building on solid performances last year. Heidt, the top Cougar finisher at the NCAA West Regional Meet in 2003, enters the season after six months of quality training and is expected to be a strong and consistent contributor. "Mike has done everything right," Drake said. "Now hopefully he can continue to do that into the season. Justin Ireland is a runner who never ceases to amaze me, coming through in the end and being on our varsity. He had a good summer of training." Wolf, an indoor All-American for 3000m, was a top finisher for the Cougars three times in 2003. He battled an Achilles tendon problem last year but as long as he stays healthy, Drake looks for Wolf to pace the men's side. Other returnees include sophomores Andrew Jones, Alex Grant, and redshirt sophomore Ryan Freimuth. All three runners are coming off excellent track seasons according to Drake, and look to be strong contributors this season after making strides in their summer training. Sophomore Matt Knoff is expected to be a factor and redshirt freshmen Geoff Casazza and Chris Concha also return, adding depth to the team. Drake adds two promising freshmen talents to the roster, bringing in C.J. Godfrey and Phil Hinrichs. Godfrey, from Port Orchard, Wash., was a top cross country athlete at South Kitsap High. Hinrichs, a Pullman High graduate, was the state champion in the 800m and 1600m his senior year. Rounding out the men's team are sophomore Chris Williams, redshirt freshman Daniel Frederick , and freshmen Woody Favinger, (Bellingham, Wash.), Gary Walsh, (Battle Ground, Wash.), and Drew Polley, (Port Orchard, Wash.). "The men's team has a good 10 to 12 guys I feel pretty confident can do something," Drake said. "You get that much talent together, you have to manage that." WSU Women's Team The WSU women's cross country team, like the men, will be a young team. With new talent and some experienced returnees, Drake feels confident the Cougar women can significantly improve on last year's eighth place finish in the Pac-10. "I think top four in the Pac-10 is in our reach," Drake said. "Maybe even knocking on the door of a chance to get to nationals. That will be their goal. We have depth now. I have 12 to 14 women and any one of them could be in our top seven. It's a good problem for a coach to have." The team will be led by Ana Cabrera, a redshirt senior lured back for a final season at WSU. Cabrera was a consistent performer for the Cougars last year, placing second among Cougar women in five races and had a good showing at the Pac-10 Championships with a 25th place finish. Also stepping into leadership roles are seniors Molly Bull and Julia Corbett. Bull continues to improve and turned in a great summer of training. Corbett is getting a slow start after suffering an injury during track season but continues to train well. Drake expects both to make significant contributions this season. "Ana, Molly and Julia are all women who've been on our varsity for three years and can help rein in the new freshman and the sophomores," Drake said. Drake returns a troop of sophomores ready to contribute. Kayle Peterson, a consistent number three runner last season, is considered one of the Cougs' top talents. Returning sophomores Kelly Ramirez, Karen DeMartini and Katie Troy also look to battle for spots on the competitive roster. Other returnees include junior Hailey Young, sophomores Natalie Smith and Grace Coulter, and redshirt freshman Julie Jewett. Sophomore transfer Molly Carmody (Cal State Northridge) also joins the women's side. Five freshmen join the 2004 Cougar women's harrier roster and Drake expects the talented recruiting class to make an immediate impact. Collier Lawrence, from Reno, Nev., was a five-time Nevada state champion in track and cross country and competed in the Foot Locker National Championship last year. Considered one of the best cross country runners on the West Coast, Drake anticipates a great freshman season from Lawrence. Isley Gonzalez, from Sunnyside, Wash., and Lisa Waananen, from Maple Grove, Minn., both state champions, come to WSU with excellent distance credentials. Haley Paul, from Phoenix, Ariz., and Meghan Leonard, from Newberg, Ore., also join the team adding more talent and depth to the women's side. Filling out the women's roster are freshmen Tara Ward, (Woodland, Wash.), Jennifer Kronvall, (Pasco, Wash.), Michelle DeCourcey, (Portland, Ore.), and Eileen Morley, (Port Orchard, Wash.). "I'm excited," Drake said. "This is a really good recruiting class. It is exciting to see quality athletes come to Washington State University. We are pretty fired up."