The University of Nevada cross country team enjoyed its best season under head coach Kirk Elias in 2006, claiming second at the WAC Championships and missing the title by just seven points. Elias' 2007 team, which has the most depth and firepower in recent years, will look to capture the first WAC Cross Country title since the 2003 season.
"We have a very good squad back and have added a great freshman class," said Elias, who will be entering his third year as head coach in the fall. "Idaho is the preseason favorite for the WAC title, but if things go well, we may have a chance to challenge them."
Nevada returns eight of its top nine runners that competed in last season's WAC Championships, including first-team All-WAC honorees junior Charlotte Schnbeck and sophomore Amanda Moreno. In addition, Elias expects the Wolf Pack's five newcomers - Janet Martinez, Chelsea Chauvet-Moore, Samantha Davis, Sara Poindexter and Maritza Garcia - to play a major role in Nevada's success. Of the 15 runners on the Pack's 2007 roster, nine are underclassmen, while four of those underclassmen have collegiate cross country or track experience.
"I expect one or more of our freshmen to be pushing our top returners," Elias said. "We have talented ladies joining our squad, and I have high expectations for our freshmen."
The Wolf Pack's returning All-WAC honorees, Schnbeck and Moreno, had great first years with Nevada and will look to continue that success in 2007. Schnbeck, a team captain in 2007, recorded a first-place finish at the 5000m Santa Clara Invitational and took second at the WAC Championships, running a 17:41 in the 5000m race. Moreno recorded two top-five finishes last season and holds two freshman cross country records (5K, 17:38 and 4K, 14:54).
"Schnbeck and Moreno both had great seasons last year and this season they will have a year of experience at the collegiate level," Elias said.
Also returning for the Pack are senior Amanda Gramly, juniors Christa Avena, Mandy Russ and Tiffany Tandy and sophomores Rachael Hadley and Kristin Palmer. Gramly, a 2007 team captain, finished in the top five on the team in all five of the cross country meets she competed in 2006. Avena competed in five of the Pack's six meets in 2006.
Russ finished 13th at the Nevada Chase Race, her highest individual finish of the season, while Tandy competed in four races, running a personal best at the 5000m Santa Clara Invite (19:37). Hadley, whose freshman season was cut short due to injury, ran in two races last year. Palmer ran a personal best at the 5000m WAC Championships (18:28) and finished 18th individually.
"All of our returners are much improved over last year," Elias said. "We have a lot of people who are going to be in the mix to be in our top group. We've got such great depth – so many kids could play a role for us this year."
Junior LaNaya Wattree and sophomore Natalia Jarawka, who both competed for the Pack during last year's track and field season, will compete for the Pack harriers in 2007. Wattree placed fifth (2:12.11) in the 800m at the WAC Indoor Championships and was named to the All-WAC second team. Jarawak also had a successful indoor season, winning the silver medal in the 5000m at the WAC Indoor Championships (17:45.06) while also garnering All-WAC second team honors.
"If everybody comes in as I'm hoping they will, the freshmen will mix well with the veterans," Elias said. "We're much better off than we've ever been. This team has a chance to be the best team in school history - we'll have to exceed the success of the 2003 team that won the WAC Championship."
Nevada will open the 2007 season by playing host to the Nevada Twilight Cross Country Classic. The meet will feature a 6000m men's collegiate race, a 4000m women's collegiate race and a 4000m high school boy's and girl's race. The Aug. 31 meet will start at 7 p.m. at Rancho San Rafael Park. College teams running are Boise State, Humboldt State, Nevada, Sacramento State, UC Davis, UCLA and UC Riverside.
The Pack will run in the Sacramento State Invite on Sept. 15. Nevada will then run in the Stanford Invite hosted by the 2006 national champion Cardinal on Sept. 29 followed by the Pre-National Invite on Oct. 13 in Terre Haute, Ind. On Oct. 27, Nevada will travel to Logan, Utah, for the 2007 WAC Championships hosted by Utah State.
The NCAA Mountain Region Championship is slated for Nov. 10 with a location to be determined. The NCAA Championships will be hosted by Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind. on Nov. 19.
"If things go well this fall – if we're healthy and are running well – we'll have a chance to break into the top five in our region," Elias said. "And historically the top five in each region go to nationals."