The 2004 University of Pennsylvania women’s cross country team will look to set the tone for the entire track and field squad this fall. The Quakers are coming off their best cross country season in over a decade, after a sixth-place finish at the 2003 Heptagonal Championships and NCAA Regional Championships. Senior Claire Duncan and sophomores Tina Morrison, Jen Blank and Jackie Dunn will lead this talented group of 24 student-athletes in what could be a very exciting season.
“It’s going to be a fun season,” Head Coach Gwen Harris said. “The nucleus of this team are freshmen and sophomores, which means the future has never looked brighter for us. We have a great leader in Claire, a group of sophomores who really proved themselves last year and some very impressive freshmen who should make an immediate impact.”
The Red and Blue will look to several student-athletes to fill the void left by All-American Emily Logan and Elaina Lord. Duncan, who set a new school record last spring in the 3,000 steeplechase and qualified for the NCAA East Regional Championships, will be one of a dozen girls who could fill the role. Another talented student-athlete to watch out for is Morrison, who added her name to Penn’s top-10 list in seven events last season and proved that with a little experience under her belt, the sky is the limit.
Also returning for the Red and Blue are senior Anna-Marie Allander and sophomores Jill Connell, Emily Buzzell and Lisa Uible. Junior Dana McCurdy, a 400m hurdler, will also try her hand at cross country for the first time.
Harris, who is in her third season at the helm of the women’s track and field program, couldn’t be happier about this year’s newcomers. “We have an incredible group of freshmen this season,” Harris added. “Fifteen of the newcomers are distance runners. They are all talented and eager to be a part of this team.”
Claire and Stacy Kim, Kelley McGrath, Jamie Liberti and Danielle Almeida are just a few of the rookies who could have an immediate effect on the success of the Quakers.
Penn will open the season at the Fordham Invitational at Van Courtland Park in New York City where two-time defending Heps Champions Columbia will be the Quakers toughest opponent. The following weekend, the Red and Blue will compete at the Delaware Invitational and look to take the top prize for the second-straight year. Penn will face some of its toughest competition of the season at the Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, Pa. and the Penn State National Cross Country Race in College Park, Pa. Last season the Red and Blue finished sixth at both meets against nationally-ranked teams including Providence, Columbia, Colorado State, Georgetown and Tennessee. The Quakers will try to improve upon last season’s Heps finish when they travel to Van Courtland Park on Oct. 29. The following weekend, they return to College Park for the NCAA Regional Qualifier.
The youthfulness and talent of this team will be a motivational force that will bring this whole group together to kick off the 2004-05 women’s track and field campaign.