Marquette Wire

Cross Country Preview

tom.blair@marquette.edu

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However, after winning the Conference USA championship and qualifying for NCAA nationals the past three years in row, Marquette’s women’s cross country team finds itself on the verge of that sporting promised land.

“We’ve had a tremendous run the past three years,” head coach Dave Uhrich said. “Three straight trips to nationals and three straight conference championships … I think that’s a lot to live up to, but I think this team is more than ready to take up that challenge.”

In a traditionally strong cross country conference, Marquette can be viewed as the favorites to win the championship again, despite losing its top three runners from last year to graduation.

While Susan Barth and Jessie and Jackie Swan — who played integral roles in last season — are gone, four out of the nine top Marquette finishers from last year’s conference meet are returning.

All-American senior Brianna Dahm will be coming back to the team after redshirting last season due to a shin injury. She is coming off of a track season in which she set several all-time Marquette team records and qualified for the NCAA nationals in the steeplechase.

However, injury concerns continue to dog her. Uhrich said she will sit out the first meet of the season to make sure her she is healed and ready to go.

“Brianna’s actually coming off an injury that she suffered right at the end of track season, but her training’s going well again,” Uhrich said. “We’re going to have her sit out the first meet, but I think she’ll do well.”

What Uhrich called his “best recruiting class ever” includes three recruits for this season: freshmen Heidi Lindeman and Shannon Oster and sophomore transfer Michaela Courtney. Lindeman and Oster are from Minnesota and Iowa, respectively, while Courtney is a transfer from the University of Wisconsin. Although enrolled as a sophomore, Courtney will have freshman eligibility status.

With all the returnees and recruits, the Golden Eagles should have as much depth as a Maya Angelou reading at the bottom of the ocean.

“We definitely have more depth than we’ve ever had,” Uhrich said. “We have at least 12 runners who I think could be in our top five, and that’s just a huge bonus to have that much depth. So now it’s just a matter of will some of those runners step up, and I think they’re certainly capable of doing that.”

Uhrich doesn’t feel that the tantalizingly reachable goal of a four-peat will add any negative pressure.

“Being three-time defenders, that just gives them more confidence,” he said. “It doesn’t put pressure on them, it just gives them confidence.”

Men’s running

Ask any fiddler, and they’ll tell you second fiddle is not a good position to be in.

After two consecutive years of playing second fiddle to another team in the conference, Marquette’s men’s cross-country team would likely agree. Last year the men finished second to Charlotte, and the year before they finished second to Tulane.

This year, they’d like to make a play for the marquee position.

“I think our goal is to improve upon last year’s season, and last year was one of our best seasons in a awhile,” head coach Dave Uhrich said. “If we want to be better, that means moving up to conference champions, and that’s our main goal for this season.”

The Golden Eagles have a good chance at that, with last year’s champion Charlotte losing four of its top six runners to graduation and Marquette losing only one. However, almost everyone else in the conference has just as good a chance, and in a sport with frequent and unpredictable injuries, moving up will be tough.

“There is no clear-cut favorite,” Uhrich said. “There’s no team that did really well last year who’s returning everybody. As always with our sport, how many injuries there are is important. Your team can look real good on paper, but then you get two or three guys injured and that can affect your season.”

If they can stave off the injury bug, Marquette has just as good a chance as anybody to come out on top of the pack. Sophomore Brent Des Roches won C-USA Freshman of the Year award last year, and he will be key to the success of this season, along with team captains senior Sal Graziano and junior Bo Erickson, who Uhrich said would play leadership roles this year.

Unfortunately, injuries are already starting to have an effect. Des Roches is still battling a nagging ankle injury suffered during last year’s track season, and sophomore Jason Crichton is nursing shin splints.

“If we can get those two back healthy and running well, then we’ll have a lot of depth,” Uhrich said. “They will start the season, to train again soon, but that’ll make a difference as to how those injuries go.”

Marquette added only one men’s recruit, freshman Jeremy Williams from Lockport, Ill.

“He’s at an ability level where he can come in and be one of the top five runners on this cross country team in his first year,” Uhrich said. “That’s something that I was looking for, to get one impact freshman. Jeremy can make an impact this year.”

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