Coming into the 2002 season, the BYU women's cross country team is optimistic, but they are not comparing this year's team to last year's national championship team. Although the Cougars are returning all but two of last year's runners, Tara Northcutt and Sarah Bea Taylor, Head Coach Patrick Shane feels the competition will be even stronger this year.
Returning to the team are five All-American runners, including Michaela Mannova, Jessie Kindschi, Lindsey Thomsen, Nan Kennard and Laura Turner. Mannova and Kindschi finsihed fifth and seventh, respectively, at nationals last year. Also adding strength to the team is junior Amy Bair, who was one of the top seven runners from last year.
Several girls will come off of redshirts and add depth to the already strong team. Most notably Kassi Andersen, Breanne Sandberg and Kristen Ogden will be joining the team. Andersen is an All-American in track and ran with the USA Junior Cross County National Team at the world championships in Dublin, Ireland. Sandberg ran a strong track season last year, competing in the steeplechase, and had a great summer of hard training. Ogden, a redshirt junior, is a former junior college national champion from Rick's.
Also returning to the team from an LDS mission in Geneva, Switzerland, is Laura Turner. Coach Shane said she has gotten into runner shape quicker than any athlete he has ever coached. Turner was an All-American in cross country her freshman and sophomore years, and Shane feels she is capable of being one of the top five athletes on the team.
A few new recruits will also join the team, including Angela Benson and Suzanna Larsen. Benson is a transfer from Rick's College who was the 2001 Junior College National Champion for cross country. Larsen is one of very few freshman not to redshirt, and Shane said she has a good chance at being of the team's top seven runners.
Refering to Benson, Andersen, Sandberg and Ogden, Coach Shane said, "These are four impact athletes and all four will challenge for the top five spots on the team."
In addition, BYU boasts a strong second team, which includes Jamie Cottle, Lisa Antonelli, Emily Mars, Katie Martin, Katie Moon and Tiffany Rust. Coach Shane said all of these girls would be in the top five at most other schools in the nation.
"We have lots of talent, lots of depth and athletes who have proven that they know how to get the job done at the national level," said Shane.
"This only means that on paper we look good and have depth, but it doesn't win you a national championship and it doesn't garner you a single All-American award," Shane remarked. "We have to be ready to run in November. If we stay healthy and run well in November we'll find out how good we are."
Coach Shane never predicts or sets goals as to how the team will finish at nationals because he does not know how strong the competition will be. He feels some of the top schools will be N.C. State, Colorado, Stanford, Georgetown, Notre Dame, N.C. and Arkansas. "There is some of the strongest team talent in years," he said.
"If we have a team goal it is to be the best than we can be in November and we'll see where that places us," said Shane.
"I wouldn't trade our team for any other," he said. "I'm smiling because it's going to be a great year. This is the position you'd like to be in at the start of the season."