CANTON -- The St. Lawrence University women's cross country team is considered among the favorites to compete for the 2010 national championship according to the pre-season poll announced on Wednesday from the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The Scarlet and Brown, who had a runner-up finish in the 2009 NCAA Championships, start the 2010 campaign ranked second in the country, the program's highest national ranking in school history.
The Saints finished with 271 points in the poll, a mere nine behind the defending national champions from UW Eau Claire. St. Lawrence came in ranked ahead of national powerhouses such as Middlebury, Washington (MO), Calvin, MIT and Williams.
"We're extremely proud of this ranking, but we'll need to work very hard throughout the entire season to hang with the likes of some of these great programs," said St. Lawrence head women's cross country coach Mike Howard. "Coming ‘out-of-nowhere' last season to finish second at NCAA's showed our team that the polls don't mean much come the day of a race."
Despite losing two of the team's top-seven runners to graduation including All-America Johannah Ludington, the Saints boast a solid blend of experience and youth. The roster, arguably one of the deepest in school history, is anchored by senior captain and defending NCAA champion Wendy Pavlus. Pavlus, who became the first women's cross country national champion in St. Lawrence history in 2009, was named the national, regional and conference Runner of the Year.
Junior All-America Jenna Hulton and classmate McKayla Nuffer join senior Megan Derby sophomore Jackie Lemme as the other returners from the 2009 NCAA championship meet. Derby narrowly missed out on All-America honors having finished in 40th place overall, but did land Liberty League Co-Rookie of the Year honors. Captains Katie Loignon and Alexis Nuffer will also add solid leadership and will be looking for a spot in the Saints' competing roster.
"Having three runners of the quality of Wendy, Jenna and Megan is a huge advantage for our program," added Coach Howard. "Each of them is capable of running at the front of nearly every race on our schedule, and our younger athletes are able to gauge their position based on their distance and pace."
Joining the mix in 2010 is a talented incoming class of 14 first-year students that will add both quality and depth to the St. Lawrence roster.
Leading the way for the first-years is Amanda Moreland from Honeoye Falls, NY, who had a stellar career at Honeoye Falls-Lima High School. Moreland is joined by fellow rookies Ariel Beccia (Rutland, MA), Kelsey Leder (Niskayuna, NY), Amy Cymerman (Pittsford, NY), Toria Koutras (Keene, NH), Kate Powers (Syracuse, NY) and Kendra Sultzer (Swarthmore, PA), who will all be competing to earn a spot in the team's top-seven by season's end.
Rounding out the women's cross country team's Class of 2014 are Machele Clark (New Paltz, NY), Nicole Eigbrett (Honeoye, NY), Bailey Furtak (Glastonbury, CT), Katie Mannix (Queensbury, NY), Emma Schneider-Ferrari (Plattsburgh, NY), Kate Sneden (Stillwater, MN) and Kayla Vodacek (Rochester, NY).
"We have so many first-year runners who have the potential to make big impacts both this year and certainly in the future that it will truly be fun for me to watch throughout the next four years," said Coach Howard.
The Saints will be the favorite to claim the program's ninth consecutive Liberty League championship this season, and will kick-off the 2010 campaign on Saturday, September 4th at their annual "Run for Ryan/Alumni Race" in Canton, NY. The team's first true test will come on September 17 at the Oneonta Invitation/Atlantic Pre-Regional race, which will feature all of the premier teams in the region. Other key dates include the Paul Short Invitational (10/1), the NYSCTC Championship (10/23) and the NCAA Atlantic Regional (11/13).