Cross Country 2011 Season in Review
Dec. 7, 2011
COUGAR MEN TAKE 21st AT NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
LEADING THE WAY
EIGHT COUGS NAMED TO PAC-12 ALL ACADEMIC TEAMS
2011 SEASON IN REVIEW
This 2011 Cougar men's team was Head Coach Pete Julian's first WSU team to earn a spot at the NCAA Championships. Only 31 teams nationwide earn berths for the Championships, 18 of which automatically qualify by placing in the top two in their respective regional races. The Cougar men were selected as one of the 13 at-large teams for the 2011 Championships with considerations of their fourth-place finish in the competitive West Regionals and their defeat of four nationally-ranked teams at the Notre Dame Invitational in September.
"All season these guys have kept on plugging. They were consistent and raced as hard as they could every time they raced," Julian said. "If you told me a year ago that this team would be 21st in the country, I would have laughed and said no way. What a wonderful year for them. And a jumping off point for our team next year: this is a team that is moving up and we will be better next year."
Junior Andrew Kimpel led the Cougars in the NCAA Championships with his 59th place finish in the 252-man field. Kimpel was the first Cougar finisher in the last four meets of the season, including the Inland Northwest Classic, Pac-12 Championships, NCAA West Regionals, and NCAA Championships. Kimpel will return next year alongside Matt Cronrath as seniors on the 2012 men's cross team. Cronrath was unable to compete this season with the exception of the Clash of the Inland Northwest because of injury.
The Cougar men say farewell to seniors and co-captains Jono Lafler and Justin Englund, who were the second and third men on the team to finish the NCAA Championships race (placing 79th and 162nd respectively). The men's team shows promise in its youth with five freshmen. Todd Wakefield and Lee George, redshirt freshmen, competed on the seven-man team at the NCAA Championships.
The women's team loses a team captain as well in senior Emily Farrar. Come the 2012 cross country season, five current sophomores on the women's team will be upperclassmen with two years of collegiate cross country experience. The WSU women also anticipate the return of sophomore Ruby Roberts to competition next year. Roberts had an outstanding freshman season, leading the Cougar women in every race that she competed in, but was injured mid-season and was not able to race in the conference and regional championships. Sophomore Allison Clark suffered from injury this season as well. Junior Caroline Austin stepped out of her comfort zone, which is typically the 3,000m steeplechase, and had a very strong season, leading the Cougar women in the Inland Northwest Classic, Pac-12 Championships, and NCAA West Regionals. Freshman Katie Fleischer had a very solid first season as a Cougar and will be an asset in 2012.
Coach Pete Julian is pleased with how both the men's and women's cross teams concluded their seasons this fall and has a positive outlook on the coming years for the Washington State Cross Country program:
"For the women it was a pretty good season. We started out pretty strong, but struggled a little bit with injuries late in the year when it really matters. However, by the time we got to the regional meet the women finished 14th which was an improvement from years past. It comes with the territory - injuries and such - but we don't have a lot of women on the team, so when our top runner went down - Ruby - that was a pretty significant blow. But I think outside of that it was a pretty remarkable year and a lot of the women did a great job.
"I fully expect that we see some pretty great things from the women's team next year.
"On the men's side, it certainly was a breakthrough year in terms of when you look at the results. But more importantly I think we laid a solid foundation, and so I think we will look back on this really as a beginning, rather than just one significant year.
"Being 21st in the country is about the best we could have been. It's one of those perfect seasons where guys stayed healthy, they got faster as the year went on, and their motivation was good. It was one of those years that we will look back on and say, `yeah, everything went well'. And everything had to have gone well for us to have the success that we did this year. But now we have some more experience and I think these guys are realizing that if you live a certain lifestyle and live like a champion, you should expect these things. And now there is proof.
"I would expect that we will be back next year, and just keep going back. Going to the NCAA (Championship) meet should be our expectation. The next level we need to get to is going to the NCAA meet and trying to crack into that top 10. We need to keep moving that goal post a little closer each year."
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