Sept. 5, 2007
The 2007 Cavalier cross country teams enter this season with a head of steam after last year's success at NCAAs that jumpstarted another strong season on the track. The parallels between the men's and the women's teams that helped propel each into the national spotlight continue in 2007. Both squads lose only one of the scorers from teams that finished 14th in 2006, and both add talented veterans who redshirted the last season. With a strong combination of veteran experience and talented newcomers, both Virginia teams are looking for a return trip to the national meet and a pair top-10 finishes.
On the women's side, the frontrunners include three All-Americans from 2006-2007 and the US Junior National Champion in the steeplechase. Emily Harrison and Kara Scanlin both earned All-American honors at the NCAA meet in 2006, while Katie Read was an All-American on the track in the 10K this past spring. All three of these individuals competed in the 10K at the NCAA outdoor championships, a testament to the platform laid by the strong cross country season in 2006. Stephanie Garcia, who redshirted the 2006 campaign, won the US Junior National title in the steeplechase this summer, will run her first cross country season this fall, giving the Cavaliers an impressive quartet up front.
"This is the best group in my eight years in Charlottesville," said Virginia head coach Jason Dunn. "On paper, this is the strongest group we have had in a long time, and when you consider the impressive depth we have, it should make it a formidable team."
In addition to the aforementioned student-athletes, the Cavaliers return eight women who have had top-seven experience. Lauretta Dezubay has run at the NCAA meet in each of her first two seasons and was a consistent scorer for the Hoos in 2006. "Lauretta has had a great summer of training and we are ready for her to take a big step forward," said Dunn.
Janine Ricci is also a two-time veteran of the NCAA cross country meet, and a strong spring season in the steeplechase has helped prepare her for the fall of 2007. Sara Casscells
and Jen Dolson both have NCAA Championships experience as well and will be counted on to push the team and add to the incredible depth of the women's squad. Veterans Suzanne Ginnow and Samantha Stafford
both have top-seven experience as well, which will be key to help the newcomers make the adjustment.
Two newcomers who look to have an immediate impact are Diana Burk and Rachel Rose. Burk, a second-year who transferred from Northwestern University, and Rose, the two-time defending state champion in Virginia, are both in-state athletes who have experienced success in cross country.
"We are excited with the addition of these two athletes," said Dunn, "and we are looking forward to the possibility of them making significant contributions right away."
The men's team also adds a talented veteran to a group that lost only one of the top five from last year's 14th-place team at NCAAs. Ryan Foster, an ACC champion on the track in 2005, returns to a team that welcomes back ACC 5K champion Jan Foerster and 2005 ACC Freshman of the Year Andy Biladeau. Foerster earned All-American honors on the track in 2007 in the steeplechase, while Biladeau has twice earned All-ACC honors in cross country. With the return of two-time ACC scorer Taylor Smith, who was Virginia's fourth man at NCAAs in 2006, the Cavaliers have four men back from the 2005 ACC Championship squad. Andrew Jesien ran at NCAAs last year for the Cavaliers as the fifth UVa runner, giving the Cavaliers four of the top five scorers from the 2006 NCAA squad.
"This is a talented group of men that has experience," said Dunn. "The potential in this group should help us greatly as we continue towards our goal of becoming one of the top distance programs in the nation."
Just like the women, the men will rely on an impressive group of veterans who will provide quality depth. A trio of redshirts from 2006, Trey Miller, Steve Finley, and Chris Clark, all had strong spring seasons and are ready to make an impact this fall. Alec Lorenzoni, who ran at NCAAs last year, James Erickson and Michael Hagos all bring veteran experience to the team.
The men also welcome a host of talented newcomers, just like the women. Kevin Tschirhart, who placed 4th in the 1500m at ACC's on the track this past spring, will run his first cross country season this fall after transferring from American Univeristy. Tshirhart was a standout high school athlete who competed at NCAAs in cross country in his first year at American. A pair of Footlocker finalists in Emil Heineking and Ryan Collins will also lace it up for the Cavaliers in 2007, giving Virginia a great deal of talent and depth.
"We have a number of talented newcomers who have experience at high-level meets and we are counting on to make an immediate impact," said Dunn.
The Cavaliers will once again play host to the ACC Cross Country Championships in October, giving the Hoos a familiar place to run as they look to capture a pair of conference titles. The NCAA Championships will again be held at Indiana State, also a familiar place for the Virginia squad. The Cavaliers will look to return to Terre Haute with both squads for their third consecutive year as they contiunue their ascent into the national elite.