Coach Neal provides details on the 2010 Buckeyes.
Coming off of the first national championship appearance in school history, what kind of momentum does that give the team in 2010 and beyond?
I think qualifying for the NCAA championships last season helped to raise the bar for the upcoming season and the future of our cross country program. The athletes returning from last year’s team got a taste of success and will be aiming to repeat that same feeling this upcoming season.
You return most of your runners from last season. How valuable will an experienced roster be in helping the team reach its goals?
It is great to be returning most our runners from last season. This group of ladies knows what it takes to make the NCAA championships and knows how much fun it is to compete on that level. I also think it will help bring our freshmen along more quickly when we have good leadership up front.
Three of your top runners from last season – Jordan Jennewine, Sarah Foster and Ellen Birmingham – are back, and all three are legitimate contenders in both the Big Ten and Great Lakes region. What kind of impression have these three veterans made on the Ohio State program?
We will definitely be leaning a lot on Sarah, Jordan, and Ellen this upcoming season. All three at some point in their careers here at The Ohio State University have been named team MVP for cross country. Having that kind of experience coming back gives us a lot of confidence heading into the season.
Despite your impressive performances at the NCAA and Great Lakes championships, the team struggled at the conference meet. Do you consider running in a strong conference like the Big Ten an advantage when you get to championship season?
Being a member of the Big Ten Conference, the strongest cross country league in the nation, is a huge advantage for us. At last year’s NCAA championships, seven of the 31 teams competing were from the Big Ten, the most of any conference in the country. Running against that kind of competition definitely helps prepare us for both the NCAA regional and national championships. This year, much like the past two seasons, we will be looking to move up the conference standings.
What are some of your expectations from the new additions to your squad? Do you see any making immediate contributions?
We have some very talented new additions to our team this upcoming season. The most familiar names to fans within Ohio will be Meredith Wagner and Mallory Kreider, both of whom have won Ohio state championships. We will be looking for them to come in and make an immediate impact. We also picked up Rachel White, a graduate student transfer from the University of Michigan. Rachel was a member of Michigan’s NCAA championship qualifying team last season, so we will be looking for her to step in and help us out up front this year, similar to what Katie Williams did last season.
The Buckeyes open the 2010 campaign Sept. 17 at the Appalachian State Mountaineer Open in Boone, N.C.