Women's Cross Country Fall Preview
Friday, Aug 31, 2012
Depth was one of the strengths of last year’s Whitman College women’s cross country team.
And that’s a good thing.
Because third-year coach Scott Shields’ No. 1 priority as the 2012 season approaches is to reload a lineup that has lost three of its top seven runners from a team that finished fourth in the Northwest Conference last fall for the second straight year.
“You never bank on people getting better, but you hope,” Shields said. “And you look at our girls team last year, it was such a great pack of runners.
“Even runners through No. 12 last year were fighting for the top seven spots. It’s hard for a coach to see who will step up and make a move and run well, especially at the end of the season. But I see possibilities.”
The biggest loss from last year’s team is Mollee Huisinga, who ran in the top five all season and saved her best for last.
“Mollee ran a fantastic race at regionals,” Shields said. “She placed 31st and was named to the all-regional team.”
Huisinga, who is from Federal Way, and fellow senior Kelly Jensen graduated last spring.
“Kelly was one of our top seven runners all season,” Shields said. “She and Mollee both ran all four years at Whitman. And Kelly was our team captain last year, not only a great runner but a great leader.”
A third strong contributor to last year’s team was Wenatchee product Skye Pauly, who has decided to take a year off school and travel.
“She was consistently one of our top five runners,” Shields said of Pauly. “So we will be missing three of our top seven runners going into the season.”
But not their top two runners.
Twin sisters Emilie and Katri Gilbert (Bellevue, Wash.) are back for their senior seasons, and they will anchor what Shields believes will be another competitive team.
“Emilie was consistently our No. 1 runner the entire season,” Shields said. “She was all-Northwest Conference, all-regional and a national qualifier. And she ran the third fastest time for a Whitman female runner at nationals.”
Although she didn’t place among the leaders at the NCAA Division III national meet, Gilbert’s time of 22:53.25 goes into the Whitman record books.
“The big thing for her was getting under 23 minutes,” Shields said. “That was pretty special, and we hope everything continues to work for her.”
Gilbert, who also played basketball for the Missionaries, is a team captain and finished first in the team’s preseason time trials.
“The good news/bad news is that she does also play basketball,” Shields said. “This is her fourth year at it, and she has to try and balance both. But so far she has proven that she can, so we just leave it in her hands.”
Twin sister Katri was consistently Whitman’s No. 2 runner last fall. She narrowly missed earning all-conference honors and was the Whits’ No. 3 runner on the regional team.
“She and her sister have trained together and run against each other for years,” Shields said. “They push each other in races and I am still hoping the day comes when Katri has the chance to beat her sister.
“It hasn’t happened yet, but Katri was the No. 2 runner in our time trials.”
Three other seniors give Shields an abundance of experience at the top of his women’s roster.
Shannon McCarty (Seattle Prep) ran third in the time trials and should easily hold down a top-five spot on the team, Shields indicated.
“We really like what we see of her so far this season,” the coach said. “She battled injuries her sophomore year and began to rebuild her training last year. She ran her best race of the year at conference last year, and it was great to see her come on at the end.”
Lori Mendelsohn (Woodside High, Portola Valley, Calif.) has had an on-again, off-again career so far at Whitman.
“One of her friends mentioned to me that she came on strong as a sophomore and ran three or four for us almost the entire season, and then last year not at all,” Shields said. “But she finished No. 4 in our time trials, and we are hoping that her every-other-year pattern holds true for this year.
“If you have to battle any little injury that takes you away from training, it effects you, not only physically but mentally as well. It can be a challenge to bounce back from those things, but she’s trying.”
The fifth senior, Claire Baron (Stadium High, Tacoma), actually has junior eligibility after taking last year off to study in Spain. But Shields anticipates that this will be her final year at Whitman.
“I am really hoping she can push to run in our top five, at least top seven,” Shields said. “But it’s very difficult to bounce back after taking a year off.
“Her best sophomore race came early in the season and she battled injuries after that. But she was in our top seven in time trials, so that’s a good sign.”
Allie Willson (Tahoma High, Maple Valley, Wash.) and Annie Watters (Victory, Idaho) are a pair of junior runners trying to crack the top 10 on the team.
Shields calls Willson, who plays Lacrosse in the spring, “A tough-as-nails runner who loves to compete. She is the type of runner I see in the top 10 for the season and pushing the pack.”
“Annie Watters wasn’t into cross country in high school,” the coach added. “She started running because she had a love for it. She never even flirted with the top 15 the last two years, but this year she’s dialed in and running strong.
“I don’t know what her season looks like, but she has trained with the top group and ran a strong time trail. It will be fun to see if she continues to improve.”
Sophomore Erin Campbell (Dos Pueblos High, Santa Barbara, Calif.) was an all-NWC runner as a freshman but is battling a foot issue as the new season approaches.
“She and Katri went back and forth most of the season,” Shields said. “Erin was usually right on Katri’s tail, and they were pushing Emilie as well. We’re still hoping for a solid season because she should be in our top five if not our top four or top three.”
Caitlin Iglehart (Urban School, San Francisco), Chelan Pauly (Wenatchee) and Jessica Lawrence (Alamo, Calif.) are three other sophomores hoping to make contributions this fall.
“Caitlin was one of our top seven the entire year and got better and better,” Shields said. “She was almost like a coach’s dream as she got faster and smarter and ran herself onto the all-region team.
Chelan Pauly is Skye Pauly’s twin sister.
“It’s really kind of funny because Chelan took a gap year after high school,” Shields said. “And now that Skye is taking the year off, they are caught up again.
“Chelan didn’t run a lot the summer before her freshman year, but she’s been making great strides since. She’s a dedicated athlete who has put in the work and she should be solid in our top 10 if not our top seven.
Lawrence played soccer all through high school and has switched to cross country just this year, Shields noted.
“She is one of those runners who is extremely confident,” Shields said. “She showed strong in the time trials, and as she puts in more training if it clicks for her, she could be awesome this year. If not, I see her being a great runner by next year.”
Two others with bright futures at Whitman are freshmen Julia Wood (San Jose, Calif.) and Emilie Williams (Saratoga, Calif.).
“Julia was fifth or sixth in our time trials and she’s definitely top seven,” Shields said. “She had a good summer of training and I am hoping she can push the top group as well.
“And Emilie was in our top 10 in the time trials. It’s good to see those two freshmen run so strong in the time trials.”
In fact, Shields said, only 40 seconds separated the to 12 runners during the time trials.
“That’s great depth,” he said. “If that group continues to push each other and work hard, even if our top one or two runners has a poor race, the three through seven runners can bring in some good times.”