COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State women’s cross country team returns to action this Saturday, Nov. 13 at the 2010 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships in Rochester, Mich. The 6k race will be run at the Katke-Cousins Golf Course on the campus of the University of Oakland.

The Buckeyes had a great showing at the regional meet last season as they finished in second place to clinched their first trip to the NCAA championships. Jordan Jennewine led the team with a 12th place finish in 21:03. Close behind her was Sarah Foster, who placed 14th in 21:31, and Ellen Birmingham who finished 22nd in 21:41. The outstanding team effort captured one of three automatic bids to the NCAA championships for the region.

“At regionals our girls do a good job of feeling like their back is always up against the wall,” Ohio State distance coach Chris Neal said.

“Where you get into trouble in cross country is if you feel like you’ve made it, if you feel like you’ve done enough to make the national meet already.”

Coming off of a sixth-place finish at the Big Ten championships two weeks ago, the Buckeyes hope to again make it to nationals by clinching an automatic bid. If Ohio State expects to return to Terre Haute Nov. 19, the squad will need to be in top form.

“We want to make it to nationals again,” sophomore Tori Brink said. “We want to show everyone that Ohio State deserves to be at nationals every year.”

Saturday’s run toward the nationals championship is set to begin at approximately Noon ET. A complete recap will be available after the race at

Running this Week…
Ellen Birmingham
Tori Brink
Sarah Foster
Mallory Kreider
Molly Jacobson
Meredith Wagner
Laura Williams
Competing Teams
Bowling Green
Central Michigan
Cleveland State
Eastern Michigan
Indiana State
Kent State
Miami (OH)
No. 18 Michigan
No. 16 Michigan State
Notre Dame
Ohio State
No. 30 Toledo
Western Michigan
Wisconsin-Green Bay
Wright State
Youngstown State

Scouting the Field
No. 16 Michigan State, No. 18 Michigan and No. 30 Toledo are the three nationally ranked teams in the Great Lakes region. The Spartans are coming off of a win at the Big Ten championships and are led by Big Ten Cross Country Athlete of the Year, Emily MacLeod. Toledo is also coming off of a conference championship win in the Mid-American Conference. The Rockets are led by Ari Fisher the back-to-back MAC champion. These three teams are heavy favorites to clinch the three automatic berths, along with Big Ten power Indiana and the Buckeyes.

Ohio State in the USTFCCA Regional Rankings
In the November 9th rankings, Ohio State has moved up one spot to fifth in the Great Lakes region by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), a two spot improvement from its preseason ranking. Michigan State and Michigan are the top two teams in the region, respectively. Other regionally ranked Big Ten teams include Indiana at No. 4 and Wisconsin at No. 11.

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Head coach Karen Dennis
Karen Dennis was hired as Ohio State’s first women’s track and field and cross country head coach since 1993 in July of 2005. Prior to taking over the OSU women’s helm, Dennis spent four seasons as a sprints and hurdles assistant for both the Buckeye men’s and women’s programs. The Detroit, Mich., native and Michigan State grad returned to the Midwest in 2003 following a 10-year stretch (1992-2002) as head coach at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and after serving as the head coach of the United States women’s national team at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

The women’s track and field and cross country program has made significant strides the past few seasons under Dennis’ tutelage. In 2010, the Buckeyes surprised many throughout the Big Ten and the Midwest with a dazzling second-place finish at the Big Ten indoor championships – its highest indoor finish in nine years – behind outstanding performances by Christina Manning and Shaniqua McGinnis. Manning captured two runner-up titles (200m, 60m) and a Big Ten title in the 60m hurdles while McGinnis pulled the upset of the championships by defeating Penn State All-American Fawn Dorr in the 400m run. Manning would finish the indoor season with a bang, becoming an All-American after a seventh-place finish in the finals of the 60m hurdles at the NCAA indoor championships.

The outdoor season was highlighted by Maggie Mullen’s Big Ten title and All-America finish in the javelin. In all, Dennis’ Buckeyes took home nine All-Big Ten awards during the indoor and outdoor seasons. Additionally, the women’s cross country team made its first NCAA appearance in school history in the fall of 2009.

Dennis has been involved on the national and international track and field scenes for quite some time. She served as the assistant coach of the 1995 World Championships squad in Gotteberg, Sweden. She also coached the U.S. women’s team at the 1991 Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba and served as an assistant women’s coach at the World University Championships in Duisburg, Germany, in 1989.

Distance coach Chris Neal
Chris Neal is in his third season as the distance coach after spending three seasons at Tulane University in New Orleans. Hired in July 2008, Neal works closely with the Buckeye distance runners and cross country team.

Last season Coach Neal and the Buckeyes made history with a thrilling second-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes regional to earn the first NCAA championships appearance in school history. Second team All-Big Ten performer Jordan Jennewine led the Buckeyes with a fifth-place finish at the regionals and took home all-region honors with teammates Sarah Foster and Ellen Birmingham. The Buckeyes also won the All-Ohio championship for the first time in 18 years in 2009. And despite setbacks to injuries during the track season, Neal helped distance runners Sarah Lowe, Katie Williams and Foster qualify for the NCAA East regionals in the 10000m run.

In his first season in Columbus in 2008, the Buckeye distance program grew by leaps and bounds. During the cross country season, a young Ohio State team improved its placement in the Big Ten standings, while finishing 13th at the NCAA Regional Championships. Sarah Foster earned Big Ten Runner of the Week honors under Neal’s leadership.

Records fell throughout the indoor and outdoor track seasons – Jordan Jennewine broke the school record in the 1500m at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, while putting her name into the OSU record books in the 800m (indoor), one-mile run (indoor) and 5000m run (outdoor). Foster and Emily Thompson also earned their spot within the Ohio State annals thanks to outstanding effort during the year.
Neal is also USATF Level II certified in both the endurance and jumping events. He lettered in cross country at EKU, where he helped the Colonels to the Ohio Valley Conference cross country championship.

Last Time Out
The Buckeyes took sixth-place at the Big Ten championships Oct. 31 with at total of 162 points, the team’s highest conference finish since 1988. Senior Ellen Birmingham led the team placing tenth in 20:39, to capture the first All-Big Ten honor of her career as second team selection. Birmingham, Meredith Wagner (16th, 20:49), Molly Jacobson (39th, 21:21) and Tori Brink (41st, 21:23) all ran career best times.

Up Next
With a Top 2 finish Saturday, Ohio State will secure an invitation to the 2010 NCAA Championships on Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Ind.