PALATINE HILL -- Two key returners for both the men's and women's cross country teams will be crucial as the Lewis & Clark Pioneers get set to start the 2016 season on Sept. 1.
At last season's NCAA Division III West Regional Cross Country Championship, Kori Groenveld of the women's team and Blake Slattengren and Jeff Mullins of the men's team put up top-50 performances. Add in women's senior Frances Swanson, who won her first collegiate track and field event, the 1,500 meters, at last spring's Pacific Preview, and each team has a pair of upperclassmen ready to set the tone for a large class of newcomers.
"It's great they can show the way," says Lewis & Clark Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Keith Woodard about the four returners. "There is a lot of leadership involved. It helps to have front runners on both teams. They'll be able to pull the younger people with them in both practice and competition."
Women's Cross Country
Groenveld was Lewis & Clark's most consistent runner last season, including top-30 finishes at both the Northwest Conference Championships and West Regional, earning All-West Region honors at the latter. The junior maintained her success into the spring track and field season with a second-place finish in the 10,000 meters at the NWC Championships.
Swanson's 1,500-meter victory at Pacific was her first win in any event at any level, says Woodard, who thinks the always-competitive Swanson, this year's captain, is poised for a breakthrough season. At last year's Westmoreland Season Opener, Swanson set a personal best in a 5K race.
Korina Waring-Enriquez missed her junior season while participating in Lewis & Clark's Overseas Study program. Last track season, injuries set back Waring-Enriquez, so she'll look to recover and make a senior statement, says Woodard. Likewise for Madison Sullivan, who completes the women's senior trio and will strive for consistency this season.
Amelia Jackson and Elisabeth (Boo) Kirkwood are Groenveld's junior counterparts. Jackson, a distance-running rarity in that she started as a track competitor, is off her best summer of training and will look to be in the Pios' top five, as she was numerous times last year. Kirkwood is an energetic and competitive runner who saw her best success in the Willamette Invitational last season, setting a personal best for a 5K.
Three of Lewis & Clark's five freshmen span the corners of Oregon. Samantha Bowen is from nearby Beaverton and could find her way into the Pios' top three or four this season. Victoria Haynes battled injuries during her senior season at southern Oregon's South Medford High School, but Woodard says she has all the tools to be successful. From eastern Oregon, Dawn Mist Movich-Fields enters the fall with a minor injury. She earned Enterprise High School's most valuable award her junior and senior seasons.
Keira Crabtree joins Lewis & Clark from a highly-competitive program at Westview in San Diego, Calif., while Morgan Taylor of Colorado was a surprise addition for Woodard. She is a track sprinter, jumper and heptathlete who sought to compete in cross country this fall.
Men's Cross Country
Slattengren and Mullins, both juniors, exchanged meet honors at the NWC Championships and West Regional. With a 12th place finish at the conference race, Slattengren earned All-NWC honors before finishing in the top 50 at the regional, while Mullins placed 35th and earned All-West Region. In addition, Slattengren placed second in the 10,000 meters at the NWC Track & Field Championships.
The duo combines with Ivan Ramos-King to account for all of Lewis & Clark's upperclassmen this season. Due to injuries, Ramos-King was unable to compete during his sophomore season after racing in three events as a freshman.
Sophomore Ryan Nguyen is the Pios' only rising underclassman this season, and Woodard expects he'll add to his solid contributions from his first year.
Liam has a chance to compete in the top five after racing well during his time at Saint Mark's High School in Southborough, Mass. Sean Richardson is from nearby La Salle Prep and has had a great start in early fall practice. Laurence Seabrook is a Bay Area runner who has a chance to compete in the top five or six, especially early in the season. From Spain, Miguel Haro Ruiz is brand-new to the sport and is really enjoying being part of the team so far, says Woodard.
William Hoard, from Great Falls, Mont., will look to adjust to the lower altitude of Portland and Woodard is interested to see how that can affect his times. A member of Brebeuf Jesuit Prep's back-to-back top-five state finishing team, Kurt Barbara of Indianapolis, Ind. has been steadily been building his miles in fall practice.
The 2016 season commences with the Westmoreland Season Opener, a Lewis & Clark-hosted meet, on Sept. 1 before a 16-day hiatus that ends with the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle, Wash.
In October, the team will split squad with some competing at the Stanford Invitational and others at the Charles Bowles Willamette Invitational on Oct. 1, before Lewis & Clark's home meet, the L&C Invite, on Oct. 15 at McIver Park in Estacada, Ore.
On Oct. 29, the teams compete at the Northwest Conference Championships, followed by the NCAA Division III West Regional in Salem, Ore. two weeks later. If anyone qualifies, the NCAA Division III Championships will take place in Louisville, Ky. on Nov. 19.