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SMC Cross Country: Veteran Belles look to rebound from subpar 2011

Brian Hartnett | Wednesday, August 22, 2012

After struggling through a difficult 2011 season, a veteran-filled Saint Mary’s squad will look to the leadership of its six seniors and eight returning team members as the Belles set out to compete for the top spot in the MIAA.

Saint Mary’s came into last season with high expectations after recording a third-place finish, the highest in program history, in the conference in 2010. The Belles, however, concluded the season falling short of expectations, finishing seventh in the MIAA championships. Despite the season’s results, Belles head coach Jackie Bauters said the team built a strong foundation of hard work and personal improvement that she expects will carry over to this season.

“I don’t feel like the team members fell short on how hard they worked or how hard they wanted to achieve things,” Bauters said. “I think they just didn’t have the depth they needed to achieve all the goals they had set for themselves.”

Saint Mary’s addressed its lack of depth, as the Belles will welcome five freshman runners, as well as one new sophomore and one new junior member. The team’s new additions will look toward the guidance of the team’s strong senior core, a group Bauters expects to benefit the team in more ways than simply scoring points.

“The seniors are a very determined group and set goals for themselves,” Bauters said. “If not all of them contribute by scoring, they’ll contribute by showing the way to incoming runners and preparing them to be contributors to the team.”

With the graduation of senior captain Joanna Almond, senior Julia Kenney will take over the top spot for the Belles. An All-MIAA honoree in 2010, Kenney placed among the Belles’ top two finishers in every race last season. Fellow seniors Emma Baker, Sarah Copi, Elizabeth Majewski and Angela Nebesny, who each set personal records in races last season, will also look to score significant points for the team. In addition, Saint Mary’s will count on the contributions of junior Colette Curtis, who emerged as a top-five finisher for the team on several occasions last season.

Bauters said the team’s combination of tested veterans and promising newcomers gives her a positive outlook for the upcoming season and noted several outsiders share her view. Saint Mary’s is ranked 10th in the Great Lakes region in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s preseason poll, marking the first time the team
has received such honors.

“We have a really great returning group and hope to build on the successes we’ve had with our team’s leadership,” Bauters said. “Everyone came back looking good and ready to go, and I expect that we’ll be competitive within the conference this year.”

Saint Mary’s opens the season Sept. 1 with the Wabash Hokum Karem meet in Crawfordsville, Ind.