2005 Cross Country Preview
Sept. 1, 2005
As the University of Northern Colorado women's cross country team gets ready to start another season, the program has a different look from the last few seasons. The Bears are competing in their last season as a Division I Independent as the program officially becomes a part of the Big Sky Conference for the 2006-07 season. The team also has a full-time coaching staff in place for the first-time in three seasons and that staff will look to help the harriers to new heights.
After having interim coaches for each of the last two cross country seasons, the program starts 2005 under first-year head coach Kevin Galbraith. But Galbraith is not entirely new to the program, as he was named head track and field/cross country coach in January and coached the Bears track team in the spring of 2005. He is joined this season by Sarah Walker, a former Michigan State standout.
"The team is very happy to final have full-time coaches," explained Galbraith. "We are very fortunate to have Sarah Walker on our staff. She brings a lot of experience as a runner and has competed at a high-level of Division I, so she understands what it takes to be good."
Having Galbraith and Walker around the track team in the spring has made the adjustment to coaching the Bears in 2005 even easier.
"Because most of our girls are returnees and we had everyone with the track team in the spring, we got to sit down with our distance crew and get them training at a higher level so they could compete at a higher level. They all really trained hard this summer and they are way ahead of where they were last year."
The Bears return four student-athletes who will give the team experience this season. That group includes a trio of seniors in Lacey Darien, Ashley Grams and Tara Hettler and junior Chantelle Erickson. A fifth returnee, senior Kelsey Leonard, suffered an injury in the summer and will redshirt this season. Each of the returnees saw action a year ago including Darien who was consistently the team's No. 2 runner in 2004 and Erickson who was consistently No. 3.
"The returnees did a great job this summer in working hard to be ready this year," Galbraith said. "If I was out around town I would usually see one of them out running, packing in the miles. They have a clear understanding of what is expected as we move to Division I."
"Our team is in the process of growing," Galbraith added. "We will need to double our roster size for next year as we need to be bigger, stronger and faster. There are times in a cross country season when in those midseason races you need to change who races when and have some flexibility and we are making plans to do that with our recruiting. The great thing about cross is that there is no bench, everyone gets to compete.
The 2005 schedule includes seven meets, culminating with the Division I Independent Championships on Oct. 29 in Corpus Christ, Texas. The Bears have competed at that event the past two seasons, finishing third in 2003 and seventh a year ago.
"This season we had to look at what we could do regionally and pick the best meets to go to," Galbraith said. "We hope in the future to go to a national level meet in the middle of the season so the team can compete with the best teams in the country.
"As for the Independent Championships, since we are not in the Big Sky Conference yet, it functions as our conference championships, so to speak. We are looking forward to it and will treat it like a championship meet."
After finishing their independent status this season, the Bears join the Big Sky next season and will also add a men's cross country team (as well as indoor men's and women's track teams) as a condition of joining the conference.
"We have a lot of work to do," Galbraith said. "On the guys side we have to recruit enough bodies to field a full team next year. The women are much farther ahead in the process. Being in the Big Sky is a great thing for our entire university and all of programs. This give us an identity and it is almost impossible to say how important it was to become a member of the conference. It is definitely one of the most important things that has happened to the program in recent history."