Head coach Karen Dennis and distance coach Chris Neal discuss the state of the women’s cross country program

How pleased are you with the progress the cross country team has made in the past year?
Coach Dennis: The team made progress, however we are certainly not where we want to be or expect to be.  What pleased me most about the season was how well the women bonded with each other.  They experienced some progress, but I wouldn’t say anyone left the season not hungry for more success.

What needs to be done to take the program to the next level?
Coach Dennis: We’re in a conference that’s considered the best distance conference in the country.  We can consider having “arrived” to that next level when we can compete well within the conference.  Any team in the top six or seven in the Big Ten Conference is a player on the national scene.  We have to continue to recruit women who have the ability to run well at this level as well as develop those women on the parameter of being the best in the conference.  We have to BELIEVE we can compete in the conference and then back BELIEF up with an unselfish work ethic to move the team to the next level.

Coach Neal, looking back on your first year at Ohio State, what would you say is the biggest difference between the team you inherited and the team you have today?
Coach Neal: From last year to this year the biggest difference has been direction. This year coming into the season every athlete knows the goals of the team, and knows what they need to do to get the team there. Last year was a growing experience. The girls on the team had to get use to me as a coach and also adjust to aiming for high goals. This year we will reach our goals.

Sarah Foster, Jordan Jennewine and Emily Thompson each saw significant improvement in their times during the track season – do you expect that improvement to carry over to the upcoming cross country season?
Coach Neal: Foster, Jennewine, Thompson, and Birmingham all had great track seasons and have all had great summers. They are ready to show that hard work pays off. I would expect that anyone of these four girls could be our No. 1 runner, and them running together will give us the pack we need for big meets.

You bring back nearly your entire roster from last season – what can we expect from the 2009 Buckeyes?
Coach Neal: I am expecting for us to run like a more mature team. We return everyone and have gained some good depth. This team should make a big jump both in the conference and in the regional meets.

The Buckeyes begin the season September 5 at the Dayton Flyer 5k Challenge in Springfield, Ohio.