COLUMBUS, Ohio – A freshman-senior duo will represent the Ohio State women’s cross country team at the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championships next Monday, Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Ind.  

Freshman Meredith Wagner’s 2010 campaign has been the most successful season by a true freshman in Ohio State history. The Sylvania, Ohio native has posted the top team finish at three of five meets, including a seventh-place and personal best time of 20:43 at the Great Lakes regional championships last Saturday.

Senior Ellen Birmingham will be making her second trip to the NCAA championships, having competed with the entire Buckeye squad at last season’s race. Birmingham’s senior season in Columbus has been the best of the career – she earned All-Big Ten honors with a 10th-place and personal best time of 20:39 at the conference championships. Last week, she finished just behind her freshman teammate at the Great Lakes regional meet, taking eighth in 20:46.2.

“The girls are looking good in training and are extremely excited compete at the national championships,” Ohio State distance coach Chris Neal said of his qualifiers. “Both Ellen and Meredith have had great seasons. Meredith has had a dream freshman year to this point and I think she will learn a lot from her first trip to nationals. I was glad to see Ellen earn an at-large bid because she has worked extremely hard this season as a senior and I believe she is ready to run a great race.

“It always nice to have multiple women competing at the national championships; it takes some of the pressure off of just having one. They will be able to work as one unit and hopefully put together a good showing for Ohio State.”

Indiana State University will host the 6k championship race at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Complex at approximately 12:08 p.m. ET Monday. A complete recap will be available at following the race.

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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 regional meet 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 regional championships 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.

Recapping the 2009 NCAA Championship Meet
The Buckeyes finished 29th in their first-ever trip to the national finals last season. Katie Williams led the Scarlet and Gray in her final cross country race as a collegiate athlete, finishing 107th with a 6k time of 21:33. Jordan Jennewine, fresh off a fifth-place finish at the Great Lakes regional championships, finished just behind Williams with a 112th-place time of 21:35.

Sarah Foster and Ellen Birmingham, All-Regional selections alongside Jennewine, finished third and fourth for the Buckeyes – Foster crossed the finish line in a time of 21:42, good for 125th, while Birmingham finished at 146 with a run of 21:54. Tori Brink rounded out the scoring for Ohio State, taking 183rd in 22:26, while Ashley Chirco (187, 22:30) and Sarah Lowe (197, 22:50) concluded the Ohio State effort at the championships.

Last Time Out
Ohio State team finished in fourth-place at the 2010 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships Nov. 13 with 139 points. Meredith Wagner and Ellen Birmingham finished one-two for the Buckeyes and seventh and eighth overall on the University of Oakland’s 6k Katke-Cousins Golf Course, earning All-Regional honors.
Wagner led the Scarlet and Gray for the third meet this season, crossing the finish line in 20:43, a personal record for the freshman phenom. Birmingham was close behind Wagner in 20:46, with sophomore Tori Brink next in line for the Buckeyes (27th, 21:27.6). Senior Sarah Foster (42nd, 21:44.2) and Molly Jacobson (56th, 21:54.3) rounded out the scoring five for OSU.