Spring Hill College's Head Cross Country Coach Joe Williams finds himself entering uncharted terrain for the 2010 season. "This is a season of unknowns," he says. "We're moving to the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) so it's hard to say how we'll match up against the new competition."
As for the Spring Hill women's team, Williams is confident. "We're looking good," he says. "As I look at last year's times for across the SSAC, we should finish in the top three of our new conference. We will definitely be in the mix at the conference meet."
Junior Kate Imwalle from Mobile's McGill-Toolen Catholic, the 2008 Conference Female Runner of the Year and a two-time All-Conference selection, will once again be a key to the Badgers' success. "We need Kate to run consistently between 18 and 19 minutes [over five kilometers] for us to be where we want to be," says Williams. "If she runs in the 18s and then if we have two or three others run in the low 19s, we will win meets this year."
Three new runners should be just the trio to fill the role that Williams describes. Walk-on sophomore Melissa Menendez of Miami, Fla., has impressed her coach and freshmen Emily Dolan from McGill-Toolen and Anna DeWine of Cedarville, Ohio, have both shined in workouts. "We have four or five runners that are pacing right behind Imwalle," Williams says. "Menendez is running in the low 19s and Dolan and DeWine should finish in our top five to seven. I'm expecting some good things out of our women's team this year."
"Right now, I want to keep everyone healthy," says Williams. "We've kept the training room full with our aches and pains so far, but having 14 runners on the women's roster helps."
Team captains senior Ceci Venker of St. Louis and junior Emily Stewart from Mt. Juliet, Tenn., proved to be leaders on and off the course last season and Williams sees them as being a positive influence in 2010. "Our captains will be asked to take on a big role with so many newcomers, but I know they are up to the challenge."
The Spring Hill men's and women's teams open the 2010 season on Saturday morning at the Radisson Hotel Wolfpack Classic at Lafreniere Park in Metairie, La., with the women beginning at 8 a.m. and the men at 8:35 a.m.