Air Force Women Look to Make Some Noise in 2004
Aug. 30, 2004
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. -
The Air Force women's cross country team enters the 2004 season with a seasoned team of individuals who hope to retain their place within the top half of the Mountain West Conference, while hoping to move forward in the standings and make a name for themselves regionally and nationally.
Air Force returns nine letterwinners from last season's team, which picked up its fifth consecutive third-place finish at the MWC Championships.
Depth will be a key factor for the Falcons in 2004. With all of the returning talent and the enthusiasm of the incoming freshmen, Air Force head coach Mark Stanforth believes that there are 12 or 13 runners who have the potential to make the top seven. The program's depth will prove valuable as the athletes push each other in practice, guaranteeing that the runners that take to the course are the program's top competitors.
Although the program lost the team's top runner, Anne Chumlea, and 2004 captain Kelly McPherson to graduation, there are several others who are able to step in and make a difference. Junior Lindsay Grose could be the front runner to fill Chumlea's void, as she picked up top-runner honors in two events last season, including the Mountain West Conference Championships. Grose picked up a 15th-place finish at the conference meet, with a time of 22:55, while also winning the Fort Hays Invitational in a 5000-meter time of 19:04.
The team's lone senior, captain Cindy Dawson, competed in just one meet last season, focusing herself on the track season. The dedication proved successful, as she led the track team in the 800-meter run during both the indoor and outdoor seasons, with respective season-best times of 2:18.37 and 2:12.18. She finished seventh in that event at the conference's outdoor championships, following an eighth-place finish at the league's indoor meet. During her freshman and sophomore seasons, Dawson finished within the upper echelon of the conference at the MWC Cross Country Championships.
Led by Grose, the junior class returns a seasoned group of athletes. Vivien Aspden and Andrea Pinchak saw significant action last season, highlighted by conference and regional championship appearances. Aspden finished 22nd at the MWC Championships and 78th at the regional championships, while Pinchak scored respective finishes of 32nd and 81st. Although Nicole Graham only participated in the first two events of the season, she finished 29th at the 2002 regional championships - which was the second-best finish by a Falcon at that meet.
The returning sophomore letterwinners received valuable experience during their first season, which can directly impact how they enter their second year. Ashley Culp saw action at both the conference and regional meets, finishing 24th in the Mountain West and 57th in the Mountain Region. Elizabeth Catherwood competed in the regional competition, picking up a 110th-place finish, while Ashley Snyder turned in a 25th-place performance at the MWC Championships.
Sophomore classmate Margaret Frash also saw action in the season's first two meets; improving her time in each.
The coaching staff of Mark Stanforth and Capt. Sierra Suhajda added a trio of standout freshmen to the mix, which include Kelly Robinson, Kate Papenburg and Kristen Trichler. The trio brings impressive credentials to the team, as each finished within the top 10 at their respective state championships.
Robinson, a native of Holt, Mich., was the runner-up in both the 800-meter run and 1600-meter run at the Michigan state track championships. Papenburg, who completed a stellar prep career in Red Lion, Pa., finished fourth in the Pennsylvania state AAA cross country championship. Trichler, a native of Santa Barbara, Calif., placed seventh in the 800-meter run at the California state track championships as both a junior and senior.
Air Force hopes to make a move in the conference standings and Stanforth and Suhajda both believe that this is the team that can do it. Although he knows the potential that this squad has, he also realizes that the differences in the conference standings are becoming more and more finite.
"We can be as good as we've been in the past and probably better," Stanforth said. "We have the potential to move up and challenge Colorado State for second place. But as we improve, the other programs are improving as well. BYU is a constant force, as is CSU. Wyoming and Utah are both improving and they will also be a challenge. The difference between the second- and fifth-place teams in the conference is less than it has ever been."
The women's cross country team looks to be one of the deepest in program history. While depth will be an important characteristic of the Falcons' season, the cohesiveness of the team will also contribute to their success. Stanforth commented that no one person will have to hold the team on her shoulders, as the team will work together to achieve more and strive farther than the teams of the past.