Aug. 29, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -
The Navy women's cross country team will begin its 2012 season this Saturday when it travels to Hamilton, N.Y., for the Harry Lang Invitational. Saturday's race on the campus of Colgate University is slated to begin at 11:30 a.m.
After capturing its second Patriot League crown in the last four seasons in 2011, the Navy women's cross country team returns again poised take the top spot in the conference. In addition to having a roster full of experience, the Mids add one of their most-talented groups of incoming freshmen in coach Karen Boyle's tenure at Navy.
"I think we have one of the deepest and most talented teams since I've been here," said Boyle, who is entering her 26th season at the helm of the women's cross country program. "We return a lot of high-caliber runners and have a great group of freshmen."
Senior Brigid Byrne returns for her final year and the 2012 captain and is the unquestioned leader of the team. The Vienna, Va., native is a two-time all-conference performer and has appeared in more meets (23) than anyone on the roster. Last season she finished in the top 10 in five of the eight meets in which she competed.
"Brigid is doing a great job as captain," said Boyle. "She's very effective and takes the role very seriously. Brigid has always been in good shape, but she's in even better shape this season."
A trio of juniors in Samantha Carl, Mary Jordan and Rachel Slater impressed Boyle in early season practice and could provide additional leadership in a thin group of upperclassmen. Carl was limited to just one meet last season while Jordan appeared in three races.
"Samantha and Mary are two runners that have made some of the biggest strides since last season," said Boyle. "Rachel had a great offseason as well and will definitely contribute."
While the Mids will certainly rely on the juniors and seniors, the core of the team lies in the sophomore class. With six returners that appeared in at least six meets last season, the group of second-year runners brings far more experience than your average sophomore class.
Annie-Norah Beveridge and Shannon Cuthbert appeared in all eight meets last season, placed in Navy's top five on all eight occasions and combined for nine top-10 finishes. Beveridge was the top-finishing freshman at the Patriot League Championships, earning Rookie of the Meet honors while garnering second-team all-conference accolades. Both Beveridge and Cuthbert were named Patriot League Rookies of the Week twice in 2011.
The only other Mid to compete in eight races last season was Christina Blair, and the Peninsula, Ohio, native finished in Navy's top seven in every meet.
The depth of the sophomore class continues with Maria Arnone and Emily Jensen. Arnone had three top-20 finishes last season and looks poised to up that number this season after impressing in preseason practice.
"Maria was a factor last year, but will be more of one this year. She has adjusted since her plebe year and had a really good summer of training," said Boyle. "For Emily, the longer the race, the better she runs."
Nikki Funkhauser rounds out the list of six sophomores that competed in at least six meets last season.
Navy's youth movement is bolstered by its exceptionally strong incoming freshman class, which includes several runners that could make an immediate impact. The 15-member class includes four state champions and more than a handful of runners that consistently post sub-five minute mile times.
"This group of plebes has been very impressive early on and we're looking forward to their contributions this season," said Boyle.
Kelley Robinson is a three-time Colorado cross country state champion while Chloe Whitworth captured a cross country state title in Georgia. Kathryn Quandt is a Texas state champion and Dale Lescher was part of 4x800 relay team that won the Virginia state title.
Navy will be tested from the outset in 2012 and after traveling to Hamilton, N.Y., for the season-opening invite at Colgate University, the Mids will head to University Park, Pa., on Sept. 8 for the Harry Groves Invitational, which draws some of the region's best programs.
Navy will appear at home twice, the first meet will take place Sept. 15 when it looks to defend its Salty Dog Invitational title on the cross country course at the USNA Golf Club.
The Mids will put their talents to the test the next two weekends with a pair of meets against top competition. The Toledo Bubble Buster on Sept. 21 and then the Paul Short Run on Sept. 28 will both draw some of the nation's top teams.
"We're excited about our schedule because we'll be able to test ourselves against some of the top programs in the country on quite a few occasions," Boyle said.
Navy will look to claim its second consecutive Star when it hosts Army on Oct. 13 in Annapolis. The team will then have two weeks off before it returns to Hamilton, N.Y., to defend its Patriot League title as the 2012 conference championship will take place on Oct. 27.
The 2012 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship will be held in University Park, Pa., on Nov. 9. The top-two finishing teams from each of the nation's nine regions will automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships on Nov. 17 in Louisville, Ky.
"Our goal is to, obviously, defend our Patriot League title, beat Army and be represented at the national championships," Boyle said. "If we stay healthy and compete at a high level, I think we have a good shot at achieving our goals. There are over 330 Division I women's cross country programs and we'd like to be one of the top-40 teams."