2001 Oregon Women's Cross Country Outlook
Sept. 9, 2001
EUGENE - In his 27th year as women's head coach, Tom Heinonen stands out as one of the few familiar names among a fresh-faced Duck program that will again match up against the nation's top conference and regional.
After graduating their top trio from last year, the Ducks will rely on 11 freshmen and sophomores, four juniors and no seniors, so most of the unit will step into new roles as Oregon chases it 25th national meet appearance under the two-time NCAA Coach of the Year.
Sophomore Tara Struyk owns the most decorated resume among returnees. As a freshman in 1999, she ranked among the Ducks' top three in every race - including a 14th-place regional finish - before injuries forced her to miss last fall and part of the past two track campaigns. A 1998 and 1999 World Junior Cross Country Championships veteran, she ranked among the top two finishers on the Canadian squad in both races.
A breakthrough track season appeared to position junior Eri Macdonald for added cross country success, although a late-May stress fracture has limited her summer training. Last fall, she ran in Oregon's third and fourth positions in every race, including a 45th-place NCAA Western Regional finish that helped the team lock up an NCAA bid. On the track, she missed an NCAA invite by less than a second in the 800 (2:07.08), and sports the team's fastest 1,500 clocking (4:39.56) among returnees from last year.
Sophomore Laura Harmon made an immediate impact last fall, scoring in five of six races. A winter injury forced her to redshirt in track, but she has pointed her training since March to being at full speed this fall. As a prep harrier, she was a three-time top-10 state placer in cross country, and owns track bests of 4:34.80 and 9:57.8 in the 1,500 and 3,000 meters, respectively, from her senior prep season.
Sophomore freshman Annette Mosey proved one of the team's biggest additions on the oval last spring. She clocked four sub-2:13 efforts in the 800, then closed the season taking 11th inher Pac-10 debut in the 1,500. Last fall she ran in the team's seventh position twice in the first half of the season, and will benefit from another year of strength.
A trio of juniors - Carrie Zografos, Erinn Gulbrandsen and Annie Davis - appear prime candidates for scoring roles. Zografos finished among the team's top seven in all six of her varsity stops last fall - her first for the Ducks after transferring from the University of Colorado. One of the team's top 800-1,500 specialists, Gulbrandsen has shown steady improvement as a collegiate harrier and scored three times last fall, including third on the squad at the Pre-NCAA Invitational. Davis ran on the varsity unit in the first three races of 2000. Although she missed the end of last spring with a stress fracture, her prior steeplechase work last year could add strength on the trails.
Other returnees with collegiate track experience include redshirt sophomores Janette Davis and Alicia Snyder-Carlson, and redshirt freshman Taylor Bryant. This quintet has focused on middle distances in the past, but could step into the varsity harrier mix based on their summer training.
The squad will also rely on several newcomers - two sophomores and three freshmen - to potentially boost its scoring hopes.
Sophomore Magdalena Sandoval transfers from Rice and was among the Owls' top harriers last fall, including a 44th-place finish in the NCAA South Central Regional. As a prep senior, she won New Mexico state class C 1,600 and 3,200 titles. Her family is no stranger to Eugene either, as her father Tony Sandoval won the 1980 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Eugene.
Two in-state freshman additions could also make immediate contributions. Sara Schaaf from Klamath Union High School won the state 4A 800 title in May and owns a best of 2:12.91. Rachelle Miller from Bend High School was a finalist as a senior in the state 800 (eighth) and 1,500 (10th), and also took 17th last fall in the state harrier finale.
Freshman transfer Beth Jackson from Buffalo, Minn., redshirted last fall at the University of North Dakota, and freshman Haripurkh Khalsa arrives from Miri Piri Academy in Amristar, India, via Windward High School in LA.
As with past years, the schedule features two of the nation's top invitationals, the Roy Griak Invitational in St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 29, and the Furman Invitational in Greenville, S.C., Oct. 13 - held on the same course as the national championships the following month. The postseason opens in Scottsdale, Ariz., with the Pacific-10 Conference Championships, Oct. 27, followed by another potentially-steamy stop - the NCAA Western Regional Championships in Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 10. The NCAA Championships cap the season in Greenville, S.C., Nov. 19.
Qualifying for the collegiate finale for West Coast teams is never easy and this season is no different as five conference schools advanced to the 2000 NCAA Cross Country Championships, and six qualified the year before. On the track, Pac-10 teams flexed their muscle by sweeping the NCAA medal stand. Individually, league distance runners collected two NCAA track titles and earned two or more All-America certificates in the 800, 1,500 and 5K, and another in the steeplechase.