The 2001 BYU women's cross country team will set out once again to prove it continues to be one of the nation's top teams. This year's squad returns only one All-American from last year's team that lost to Colorado in the NCAA Championships and finished as the national runner-up. Gone are two All-Americans from last year's team and several other key contributors to the Cougars.
Despite the losses, BYU will once again come into the season as one of the top teams in the nation and expects to compete for a third national title. Head Coach Patrick Shane said "I'd put us in the top five in the country on paper but we're probably closer to fifth than first coming into the season."
Leading the way along with Northcutt will be Lindsey Thomsen, one of the top runners throughout the season last year and the 2000 Mountain West Conference individual champion. Along with Northcutt and Thomsen, the Cougars bring back three more from the squad that competed in the 2000 NCAA Championships.
The 2001 group blends experience, five runners on this year's team competed for the Cougars at nationals last year, with inexperience, nearly half of the runners on this year's team are newcomers to BYU. "We're hoping that several of the newcomers will distinguish themselves as has happened for us in the past. We have a good team but it's also an unproven team," Shane said.
One of the unproven aspects of this year's team are the five athletes who will transferring to BYU from other schools. Shane said, "We've got to integrate the transfers into the BYU system. Until they've proven themselves in our system they are still a question mark." Shane expects Michaela Mannova from the University of New Orleans and Jessie Kindschi from South Dakota State to also be key contributors to this year's team.
One key transfer for the Cougars will be Kristen Ogden, who was the NJCAA national champion last year while running at Ricks College.
Throughout the 2001 season, Coach Shane will be looking to have his squad peaking when he returns to Greensville, South Carolina, where he led the program to its first national championship in 1997. Coach Shane said the championship is a sweet memory for him but he doesn't know that it will affect the athletes because nobody from this year's team was there.
The BYU squad will once again be logging the miles in travel, competing in meets in California, North Carolina and New Mexico in preparation for the NCAA Championships in Greensville. The team will stay home for two meets this year, hosting the BYU Triple Crown and the NCAA Mountain Regional.