Two young but thoroughly talented Linfield cross country squads seek to equal, or better, their top-three finishes at last year’s Northwest Conference Championships. Just six seniors make up the combined roster, hopefully predicative of future and sustained success, but the ‘Cats are eager to take care of business here and now.
After losing four of their top five runners from last season, the Linfield men have some rebuilding to do. Fortunately, at least one huge piece returns in Joe Gladow.
The junior, who is the clear frontrunner of this year’s squad, surged at the end of last year, finishing as the team’s No. 2 runner (31st overall) at the West Region Championships.
Not only a great runner but an all-star in the classroom as well, Gladow “is a real leader on both sides of what we’re trying to accomplish here at Linfield,” said head coach Travis Olson. “He’s going to be somebody that all of the younger people can turn to and look up to.”
Sophomore Calvin Howell is also expected to take on a bigger role this season. He was just off the pace of the front group of seniors last season and demonstrated real toughness that should pay dividends this year.
Other key veterans include Jason Hight, Chad Linnerooth and senior Lester Maxwell, a mid-distance track star who could emerge as a top-three runner for the Wildcats in just his second season of collegiate cross country.
Freshman Frankie Moncada is one of the most promising newcomers, capable of scoring points right out of the gate.
Overall, with such a young and unproven group of runners, it remains to be seen how strongly this Wildcat squad can challenge NWC favorite Willamette, defending champion Whitworth and an improved Whitman club. But Olson warns not to count his team out of the title hunt.
“It’s not out of the question,” he said. “We have enough talent to be in the top three again. It’s just a matter of us developing, and all those younger runners stepping up and taking more of an impact role for our team.”
Excitement and expectations run very high for the Linfield women. The ‘Cats return nearly everyone from 2011, when they achieved a third-place finish at the NWC Championships, a mere 10 points behind first-place Lewis & Clark.
Two-time all-NWC and all-region performer Mimi Seeley is the team’s most seasoned veteran, but Madison Trowbridge and Hannah Greider could challenge her for the No. 1 position. Trowbridge, who placed third for Linfield and 12th overall at the 2011 NWC Championships, still has heaps of untapped potential. Greider missed this past track season to study abroad, but is excited to be back with the cross country program and primed for an impactful junior campaign.
Claire Hann, Audrey Lichten, Sarah Lopez, Brooke Niemann and Siena Noe round out the list of top returners for this deep and talented squad.
Though Linfield just has just four regular-season meets on the calendar, Olson is confident his women will be ready take down recent powers Lewis & Clark and Willamette teams at the NWC Championships.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” he said, “but if we can stay healthy, and with the depth that we have, it’ll help our chances.”