The expectations are once again high, but there is absolutely no pressure on the Quinnipiac women’s cross country team this fall.
The Bobcats return every runner from last season, including two of the nation’s elite distance runners in Katie Gwyther and Joanna Perez.
As their impressive second place finish at the Stony Brook Invitational on Sept. 2 would indicate, the ‘Cats haven’t lost a beat from last season.
Last year, a second place finish in the NEC meet was a difficult thing to swallow. “We didn’t have a bad race,” head coach Shawn Green of last year’s conference championship meet, said. “We had a solid race, but we didn’t have a championship caliber race, so our goal this year is to have a championship caliber race that day, and I think if we do that we can win it.”
“St. Francis has won it three years in a row I think. They knocked us off at home last year at the conference meet, so we want to go down there and return the favor this year,” Green said.
The key newcomer this season is Erin O’Connell, a mid-year transfer last year that helped the team during the winter and spring track seasons.
The Bobcats have picked up four talented freshmen in addition to Ashley Uniszkiewicz, who red-shirted last year. Uniszkiewicz, a highly-touted recruit, finished third this past weekend.
Like last year, the Bobcats’ depth will work in their favor.
“We were the deepest team in the conference last year,” Green said. “We had eight runners finish before St. Francis’ fifth. You should never lose when you have that, but somehow it happened. So not only do we have that depth coming back from last year, but we bring in five or six other, equally as talented athletes. They (St. Francis) brought in some good recruits too, but still, I love our chances.”
Gwyther was named the 2004-2005 Quinnipiac Women’s Athlete of the Year after three seasons of unprecedented success. Gwyther has won a record five conference titles and will once again be the leader of a talented bunch.
“Katie’s in great shape, we just hope she stays healthy, and her goals are to win the conference, as an individual, as a team, and to qualify for the NCAA championships. I think she had a shot at that last year, but she got hurt, so if we keep her healthy this year I think she’s got a real good shot at it,” Green said.
Jenna Nechamen, a sprinter who converted to distance running, was the Bobcats’ top finisher at the Stony Brook Invitational, and has made huge improvements in the last two years. “Jenna has figured out how to be a distance runner now, and she’s going to be a real big key for our team,” Green said.
Ashley Reichelt, who’s also more of a middle distance runner, finished second for the team this past weekend and has been very strong in practice.
The aforementioned Perez, the fastest mid-distance runner the school has ever seen, along with senior standout Danielle Green, will aid the Bobcats in the upper lineup.
Unfortunately, All-NEC sophomore Caitlin Brady is out with an injury.
On the freshman front, top recruit Brittany Carter finished within the top six this past weekend. Other freshmen the team will look to are Chelsea Bollerman and Chloe Castigan-Humes.
The women’s team also has a rich tradition of excellence in the classroom, and hopes to retain its status as Academic All-America.