For the first time in school history both the Case Western Reserve University men's and women's cross country teams will compete for a national title in the same year as the Spartans will travel to Indiana Saturday (Nov. 22) for the 2008 NCAA Division III Championships hosted by Hanover College.
The men and women have been ranked all year long by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCA), with the men peaking at No. 11 and women at No. 6. The men, after a disappointing fifth place finish at both the University Athletic Association (UAA) championships and Great Lakes Regional, have fallen to No. 31 and the women are currently No. 10.
"We are a better team than we were at the regional and I believe we are going to surprise the nation, especially the men's team," said 2008 UAA Coach of the Year Kathy Lanese. "We have already talked about where we are going to be and it's going to be a whole lot higher than 31st."
On the other hand, the Spartan women have created a dynasty. They claimed their second [2007 & 2008] UAA title in three years this season and are making a third consecutive team appearance at nationals. The men will be there for the first time since 2003.
"Our [women] sixth place finish a year ago made history, but it didn't make us content," Lanese said. "We want to be fourth... we want to get to the podium [top four]."
To date, the biggest highlight as a total team [men and women] was the All-Ohio Championships. The Case Western Reserve men and women won their respective Division III races for the first time in school history and also for the first time, the men had an individual champion (Dominic Smith).
"They [men] haven't been to the big dance yet [current team members], the women have, but the guys haven't," Lanese explained. "I have seven seniors this year, three on the women's side and four on the men's. They've stayed relax and worked hard, setting a great example for the young runners ahead."
CROSS COUNTRY FOR DUMMIES...Each [men and women] race will feature 280 runners from schools across the nation. The men will run an eight-kilometer [4.96 miles] course and the women a six-kilometer [3.72 miles] course. The top 35 finishers on both sides earn All-America status. Last but not least, each [men and women] team will travel eight runners, but only seven will run. The eighth runner is an alternate.
LAST TIME OUT...In their most recent NCAA Championship appearances, the Case Western Reserve women finished 6th in 2007 and 10th in 2006. The Spartans had two All-Americans in 2006, Stephanie Nothelle [33rd] and Esther Erb [35th] and Erb [27th] again in 2007. The Case Western Reserve men finished 20th in 2003 and Matt Finnerty was their highest finisher at 55th. A year ago, current senior Dominic Smith (New Richmond, OH) placed 51st running as an individual entrant.
BUS IT BABY...The cross country program would like to thank the University Programming Board (UPG) and the Office of Student Affairs for funding a charter bus that will travel to Hanover to cheer the Spartans on. The bus, which was open to both student-athletes and the community, is already filled with a waiting list. Speaking of school spirit [located on north wall of the Thwing Center], members of the cross country and track and field teams will be painting the spirit board on campus Wednesday night.
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