Last season, the Shippensburg University women’s cross-country team reached the NCAA Championship meet and finished 22nd overall. The 2016 squad is determined to continue its success.
This season, the women’s cross-country team was picked first overall in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Preseason Coaches Poll. The team will return all seven of its top runners from last season.
“I feel we should be competitive again at the front of the PSAC and Atlantic Region,” SU cross-country coach Steve Spence said. “The women’s team is in a similar position to where men were in 2015. They have been in the 20’s the last couple of years at the NCAA meet and they are developing confidence that they can make a significant step in their performance.”
For the last two seasons, Casey Norton has led the Raider squad. Norton, a senior out of Troy Area High School, finished in fifth-place at the Atlantic Region Championships and was a Top 70 finisher nationally.
Also running for SU is Lizzie Makickas who is looking to return to the form she had as a freshman when she finished ninth at the Atlantic Region Championship meet. Jackie Kinkead and Caity Reese each had break through track seasons for SU, in which they both ran mid 17-minute races in the 5,000-meter race. Bree Dissinger has also made strides towards a successful cross-country season through the track-and-field season as well.
With all of the team’s top seven runners returning, the team is looking for another chance to run at the NCAA Championships this season. Spence knows that it will be a challenge, but the former Olympian knows what it takes to compete at the highest level.
“They need to diligently follow the training and racing plans and commit to the life style of elite level runners,” Spence said. “They need to sacrifice in order to develop the confidence that they are ready to make the next step to be a top 15 team at NCAAs.”
The NCAA meet last season definitely brought some positive light to what the 2016 squad is capable of.
“They had solid efforts and it was great experience for what was a young team,” Spence said. “After finishing third at both PSACs and Regionals, they were happy to be the No. 2 team from our region, and were actually very close to being the No. 1 team.”
The team gained experience and confidence watching and running alongside the men’s cross-country team that finished fifth overall at the NCAA meet.
“Watching the men’s team execute so well definitely opened their eyes to what was possible for them in 2016,” Spence said.
For the SU women’s squad, the Paul Short meet at Lehigh University will be one of the bigger meets on the 2016 schedule. The team will also be looking to have strong finishes at the PSAC Championships as well as Regionals and eventually, the NCAA meet.
The SU women’s cross-country team will get its season underway September 2 under the lights at SU in the Galen Piper Alumni Open and Cross-Country Challenge.