Women's Cross Country Preview
Sept. 4, 2003
It's a new era in Memphis women's track and cross country.
If you talk to the athletes on the squad or to the eager Coach Jonas Holdeman or Head Track Coach Brenda Calhoun-Cash, you hear the same words and feel the same excitement from everyone. "I'm here to be a part of a new era at the University of Memphis." There is quite a buzz surrounding the Women's Cross Country team this fall. Eight new roster members including seven freshmen from as far north as Canada, as far west as Oregon and east as New Hampshire has resulted in a completely rebuilt team in 2003.
Coach Jonas Holdeman's hard work on the recruiting trail paid off as he was able to successfully lure seven talented prep runners who have enrolled at The University of Memphis this fall. Some of these freshman runners are more middle distance track runners, but all will use this cross country season as a training tool to enhance their skills.
"We have an excellent recruiting class that arrived this fall," said Coach Jonas Holdeman. "I went to the coaches and told them what we are trying to do here. I told them my training philosophy. I think in the past there was not a huge emphasis on recruiting distance runners. Distance is my area of expertise and I knew I could evaluate talent well and bring some good runners to Memphis. I wanted quality students foremost. If you look at our freshmen class, they are all high-achieving students. I also was interested in their training parameters. I wanted girls that could develop well, and that's what we were able to bring in this year."
Headlining the class was Becca McMahon (Londonderry, N.H.. Fr.). As one of the top runners in the New England area, McMahon received numerous accolades as a prep runner including being named to the 2002 Cross Country All-Class All-Star team in New Hampshire. She is a candidate to be one of Memphis' top runners this fall as a true freshman.
Michel Wilson (Portland, Ore., Fr.), a former Junior Olympic State Champion in the 1500m and Kara Cassel (Tulsa, Okla., Fr.), whose Jenks High School track and cross country teams were Oklahoma 5A State Champions, have the ability to make a big impact this fall as true freshmen. In addition, Mary Claire Dake (Knoxville, Tenn., Fr.), Daniele Riendeau (Ottawa, Canada, Fr.), Kimberly McVeigh (Memphis, Tenn., Fr.) and Brittany Pieraccini (Memphis, Tenn., Fr.) will all jockey for a spot on the cross country competition squad.
Memphian, Kimberly McVeigh's Houston High School team won the Tennessee Cross Country State Championship in 2002 as did Dake's high school team which won six combined cross country and track state championships during her tenure Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tenn.
Ali Baker (Calgary, Canada, Sr.), the former standout soccer player at the University of Memphis joins the cross country squad in 2003. With such a young team, Baker's savvy as a four-year athlete in the athletic department and with the University is a welcomed addition.
"Having Ali (Baker) is a big plus," said Coach Holdeman. "She knows the ropes with respect to the University and the athletic department so I expect the girls to look to her for leadership."
The Lady Tigers return three runners from last year's squad. Junior Nora Nemere (Budapest, Hungary, jr.), and sophomores Heather Woolls (Ripley, Tenn., So.) and Karin Brooks (Memphis, Tenn., So.) all ran in meets for the Lady Tigers last year. Nemere ran a 12:18.90 at the Southern Illinois Invitational last year placing 24th. Woolls and Brooks competed as true freshmen last year. Both have trained well in the off-season and should improve their times in 2003.
"I'm fired up because I've got a team of great athletes. I've been so impressed with the way this team has worked and their enthusiasm to get started. They hit it off from the first day. They work out at 5:30 a.m. in the morning and they train and work very well together. I'm very excited about working with these girls. It's going to be a lot of fun the next few years."
Last year, with a depleted squad that had only two true-experienced distance runners, The Lady Tigers finished last in C-USA. It's a safe assumption that the Lady Tigers will improve in 2003. Coach Holdeman feels like his team will be a surprise in C-USA, but doesn't want to put too much pressure on such a young team.
"I think we will do well this fall, but it really is too early to have big expectations for this group," said Holdeman. "But I think maybe by the outdoor track season we will start to see glimpses of what they are capable of and we should be very competitive on the conference level. I have no doubt though that once these girls get use to Memphis as many of them traveled a long way to get here, get used to college and get used to training, they will blossom into an awesome team."
The Lady Tigers begin their season this weekend when they host the Memphis Twilight Classic at Mike Rose Soccer Complex Saturday night at 7 p.m.