Cross Country teams start season Friday

Sept. 3, 2008

Freshmen and First Team Meetings  |   Percy Warner Park  |   Pep Rally  |   XC Fun Run

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Vanderbilt cross country teams will begin their season with the Belmont-VU opener Friday evening at Percy Warner Park in Nashville. The women begin racing at 5:30 p.m., while the men start at 6 p.m.

"We'll run about 16 women and 10 men," said Steve Keith, head coach. "Obviously the first race is just that, get your feet wet for the freshmen, for the upperclassmen kind of get back in the swing of things."

After outstanding freshmen performances, Rita Jorgensen, Adrienne DiRaddo and Kristabel Doebel-Hickok will return to the course ready to add to strong foundations established last season.

"This meet is a chance for us to see where we're at fitness-wise, and what we've accomplished over the summer," Rhonda Riley, assistant coach, said.

In 2007, Jorgensen finished fourth at the Belmont-VU Opener, first at the Commodore Classic and 11th at the Colonial Inter-Regional Challenge, and grabbed the 2007-08 Vanderbilt Female Newcomer of the Year award last spring.

DiRaddo placed ninth at the Belmont-VU Opener, 13th at the Commodore Classic, 20th at the Colonial Inter-Regional Challenge, with school-record times in the 3000 meters (No. 12 all-time) and 5000 meters (No. 8 all-time). These accomplishments garnered her the 2007-08 Vanderbilt Female Comeback Player of the Year award.

Doebel-Hickok will also run with the front of the pack. The sophomore redshirted the cross country season, but set a school track records in the 10,000 meters with a time of 35:40.27, while posting No. 4 and No. 10 VU all-time school performances in the 3000 and 5000 meters.

Coach Keith expects senior Amanda Scott and junior Ellen Black, along with freshmen Louise Hannallah and Alexa Rogers to contribute as well. Scott didn't race in 2007, but finished second on the team at the Blue Ridge Open, fifth on the team at the Commodore Classic and third at Belmont Invite. Black placed 35th at the Belmont-VU Opener, 30th at the Commodore Classic, 41st at the Colonial Inter-Regional Challenge, 107th at the Chile Pepper Festival and 63rd at the SEC Championship.

On the men's side, seniors Matt Long, Michael Nordlund and Rob Whiting, and junior Thomas Davis will set the pace. Each submitted impressive performances at the Belmont-VU Opener, the Commodore Classic, the Greater Louisville Classic, the Chile Pepper Festival, the SEC Championship and the NCAA South Regional Championship.

"We're going to rely on them quite a bit," said Keith, "and I do think two of the freshmen, Kyle Rewick and Jenner Kizer, will jump up and contribute right away."

The Commodores have also added a supporting cast which includes freshmen Erin McManus and Jordan White, for the women, and Casey Howards for the men. The teams return much needed experience and leadership in nine senior women runners and three men as well.

"Of course we have goals to improve upon from last year," said Keith. "Obviously the depth of this team with two years of recruiting is going to show in the conference and the region. So, we do have rather lofty goals for both of those competitions, but that's in November."

The Belmont-VU meet features shorter running distances than future competitions for both the men (5K) and the women (4K). The shorter race will allow Keith and Riley to gauge the fitness level of their runners and to formulate an idea of where to base further training. The runners have matched up well so far, and Keith expects to pair a couple of the athletes for the race.

"I'm extremely excited to see where we're at," Riley said. "I'm excited for the freshmen being able to contribute, and just for the overall year. I think that there's a lot of potential in this team."



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