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Belles could run away with MIAA

Dan Tapetillo | Thursday, August 26, 2004

If there is such a thing as a die-hard worker, look no further than the Saint Mary’s cross country team. With a mixture of veterans and newcomers, the Belles are looking to be a legitimate threat this upcoming season.After a program-best finish of sixth at the MIAA Championships last year, the Belles’ roster continues to teem with talent and promise. Four of the five top runners from last year’s team return with great expectations after last season’s success. Sophomore Sara Otto leads the pack as the team’s top finisher at last season’s championships. The stellar sophomore placed 22nd overall and finished 84th at the NCAA Division III Regionals at Hanover College. She became the team’s No. 1 runner after a respiratory infection sidelined senior Jackie Bauters prior to last year’s MIAA Championships. Otto is just one of three sophomores returning who placed in the top 60 for the Belles at last year’s conference meet.Sophomores Erin Nolan and Katie White join Otto on the squad. Nolan and White placed 50th and 55th respectively at the MIAA conference meet. Seventh-year head coach Dave Barstis praised the trio for their consistency as competitors. “Those three runners will be the foundation of our program in the upcoming years,” Barstis said. Also returning for the Belles are co-captains Elizabeth Commers and Risa Zander. Barstis is looking to Commers and Zander to take the team’s newcomers under their wings. Freshman Megan Gray and Loyola transfer Megan Murphy are ex-pected to make an impact this season and add depth to the team under Barstis’ guidance. Going into the season with a can-do attitude should give the team one of their most successful seasons yet, Barstis said. “We are more talented than last season,” Barstis said. “I am not going to put it past this team to get fourth or better at the conference meet.”Saint Mary’s will get a chance to see how well they are competing as the Heidelberg Invitational on Sept. 3 nears. The team finished fifth out of 12 teams last year in the Invitational and is hoping to improve upon these results.Still, Barstis views this meet as a workout, describing whatever the results may be as a starting point for the team’s season-long goals.”I am looking at this meet as a baseline for what to expect for the rest of the season,” Barstis said. “It will give me a feel of what we need to do to get to where we want to be.”