2011 X-C Preview: The ACC Women

August 29th, 2011 in Articles by 2 Comments

It’s that time of year: Cross Country is upon us!

Nowhere is this competitive atmosphere more poignant than the Atlantic Coast Conference, one of the premier cross country conferences in the nation. Last year, six women’s teams – Florida State, North Carolina, Duke, Boston College, Virginia and NC State — qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championships, with FSU finishing second.

Preseason brings returning scorers and fresh faces together as 12 schools compete for the ACC – and potentially the NCAA – titles. Check out the ACC preview below, and get ready to watch as the teams race their way to the conference championships at Clemson in anticipation of that coveted invitation to Terre Haute.

Teams Poised To Take the Conference:

Boston College: BC took fourth place year, and walk-on senior Hope Krause – who was the third Eagles scorer at ACCs and second at the NCAAs – will return for a sixth year of eligibility. Krause was instrumental to the team’s run to the NCAA Championships. BC also returns Jillian King, who placed first for the Eagles at the ACCs and third for the team at the national meet. However, BC loses two of their top five scorers – two time All American Caroline King and Madeline Wallace.

King will definitely be hard to replace, but if the younger girls can step up, the Eagles will still manage to provide some fierce competition in the already dominant field.

Duke: The Duke women notched the third place finish at the conference meet last year, beating out Boston College by one point. They return six of the seven girls who competed at the NCAAs, and the extra year could push the Blue Devils into elite status.

“Personally, I am feeling pretty good about the season… I think our team is in a really good place this season. We have a great incoming group of freshman, and we are returning a lot of our girls from last year too,” says Juliet Bottorff, who led the Blue Devils at last year’s conference meet and finished 13th overall.

Florida State: Last year, FSU won the ACC and took second at the NCAAs, and there’s no indication that the team is slowing down.

“I think we have four very solid returners in Jessica Parry (pictured), Amanda Winslow, Hannah Brooks and Violah Lagat. We signed six scholarship athletes as well, so I am excited and anxious to see how we can plug them into the lineup,” says Coach Karen Harvey, who was last year’s ACC Coach of the Year.

Although the loss of Pasca Cheruiyot and Pilar McShine – the team’s consistent top two scorers and 2010 All Americans –  will definitely be felt, the ‘Noles have the depth to be 2011 title contenders. Parry finished fourth on her team at last year’s ACC meet, good for 15th overall, and was also named an All American.

“We still have a solid group of returners that are ready to step up. We also have a bunch of talented new freshman and transfers that I’m confident can make a big impact, so we will definitely have a lot of depth on our team,” says Parry.

North Carolina: Though they finished only fifth in the conference, UNC’s cross country season ended with a respectable 14th place finish at the NCAAs. With Kendra Schaaf decidedly in the mix for an individual ACC title, UNC has the potential to surprise people for the second year in a row.

“I am even more excited about our team as a whole because we bring back everyone from last year as well as add on a whole new load of very talented freshman,” says Schaaf.

“(We’re) looking good right now,” said UNC Coach Pete Watson. “[I’m] very happy…with where we are with fitness and health. It appears everyone did their mileage this summer.”

Virginia: Last year, the Cavaliers finished second in the ACC, their best finish since 1993. The first- and fifth-place runners at conference were separated by a mere 38.3 seconds, and that synergy will once again define Virginia’s cross country season as they return four of their top five.

They have a very good chance at taking the conference this year and will be led by Barbara Strehler, who came in 8th at the ACC Conference meet, and 10th ACC finisher Morgane Gay.

Team Wild Card

NC State: This is the ACC. And, yes, despite the fact that the Wolfpack returns last year’s ACC Champion, Laura Hoer, and six girls out of the seven-person squad that ran at nationals, NC State is still a conference ‘wild card.’ But, the team is a ‘wild card’ on the brink of joining the ranks of the powerhouses.

Last year’s team finished 24th at the NCAAs, the lowest of the six participating ACC schools. They were sixth in the conference meet. However, that team was composed almost entirely of underclassman. With another year under their belt, the Wolfpack almost certainly will make more waves in the ACC in 2011.

“I think the team this year will be able to make huge improvements even on our stellar season last year. We will still be bringing in a younger team. I think as our freshmen are going to be able to make a big difference in the squad, but on top of that we also have great returners and experience to guide us,” says Hoer, the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year.

“We have a very good opportunity this season and I definitely think we have the tools to be in the top 10 in the nation. I’ve been talking to a lot of the girls and everyone is so ready for this season to begin. Everyone knows what it is going to take so it’s all just a matter of working as a team to get it together,” added Andie Cozzarelli, who finished 11th overall at last year’s conference meet.

Women to Watch:

Laura Hoer (NC State): Sophomore Laura Hoer (pictured) dominated the conference last year and took home first place honors at the ACC meet. In just one year of collegiate cross country running, her resume also includes NCAA Southeast Regional Champion, NCAA Southeast Region Athlete of the Year, All-ACC and ACC Rookie of the Year. Although she dealt with injuries during outdoor track, Hoer has spent the summer building on her training and hopes to compete at the high level that defined her 2010 freshman campaign.

“I struggled in my spring season so I hope to find the same fire I was able to come in with last year and I want myself and the whole team to stick to being injury free,” says Hoer.

Anna Nosenko (Wake Forest): Senior Anna Nosenko is poised to take her success to the next level after a junior year that included a third-place finish at the conference meet.

“She qualified [for] the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championships, earned two ACC Conference indoor titles (3,000 meters, 5,000 meters), and garnered two NCAA All-American Honors at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships,” raves Coach Brad Hunt.

Kendra Schaaf (North Carolina): A standout transfer from Washington last year, Kendra Schaaf finished 11th at the NCAAs with a time of 20:26.7 and garnered All American honors. Her second place finish at the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships earned her team an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAAs. Schaaf placed fourth in the conference meet, but Coach Pete Watson is confident that she has what it takes to be in the mix for an individual NCAA Championship.

“Schaaf was 11th last year and second the year before at the NCAA championships. She is coming off a track season where she ran PR’s at 5000 meters and 10,000 meters. Her mileage has increased and she knows how to compete,” says Coach Watson.

“I am excited about this season because I have been here a full year and am not coming into something new,” says Schaaf. “My goals for this season are to win some races. I would love to get an ACC title and improve upon my previous NCAA placings.”

Wild Cards

Jessica Parry (Florida State): Jessica Parry is possibly the best runner on what could very well be the best team in the ACC for the third year in a row. She finished 22nd overall at the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championships with a time of 20:39, a mere seven seconds behind standout teammate Pasca Cheruiyot, who placed 17th overall, and 14 seconds behind teammate Pilar McShine, who placed 7th overall. Parry definitely knows how to stay with the front pack, and she feels prepared to lead it now that Cheruiyot and McShine have graduated.

“Now that I’m a junior, I know what to expect training- and racing-wise, so I’m definitely more confident,” says Parry. “Over the past two years I’ve seen what it takes to be a member of a podium team at nationals and I’m excited to put in the work this season to improve my placing individually and as a team at NCAAs.”

Jacque Taylor (North Carolina): The winner of the 2009 cross country title in California, sophomore Jacque Taylor struggled with iron issues and adjusting to life away from home during her freshman year, according to Carolina Coach Pete Watson. This year, however, “She had a great summer and looks to be very fit right now,” he says. Watch as she moves her way up the Tar Heels depth chart.

Our Prediction:

…And the ACC women’ team champion will be:

Virginia!

Kelly Laffey ran cross country and track at Wake Forest University. A 2010 graduate, she is pursuing a career in journalism. She loves the freedom associated with running and hopes to compete in her first marathon later this year. Contact her here.

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9/29/2011

[…] poll when the numbers were announced this week. (Indeed the Seminoles look poised to disrupt previous Faster Than Forty predictions and beat out Virginia as the best women’s team in the ACC […]

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