Re-dedicated and united, the Linfield harriers look to assert themselves as one of the Northwest Conference’s top cross country programs in 2013. Unsatisfied by their showings at last year’s Northwest Conference Championships, the Wildcat men and women have adopted a new attitude toward success that has put fourth-year head coach Travis Olson on notice.
“They’re all competitive, but they’re more business-like in the way they’re going about practices,” Olson said of his runners. “The eye is on the prize.”
A veteran-laden women’s squad has both the depth and talent needed to challenge three-time defending champion Lewis & Clark for the conference title.
Hannah Greider and Siena Noe look to carry over their successes on the track – both set Linfield top-10 marks in the distance events – into their final cross country seasons. All-region performers Claire Hann and Brooke Niemann also return, along with a healthy Mimi Seeley, who missed much of her junior year due to injury.
Senior Katie Skinner is expected to contend for a top-five position, while juniors Madison Trowbridge and Calli Dowdy are primed for strong seasons after training hard over the summer. Newcomer Kayla Moore has been impressive; her fearlessness about running with the front of the pack bolsters Linfield’s depth on the women’s side.
“On paper, we’re looking pretty good,” Olson said. “We have a good solid group that likes to run together, and that goes a long way in cross country.”
That unity of pace contrasts a bit from the men’s team, which features two-time all-region performer Joe Gladow as the clear frontrunner.
“He’s ready to really fight for that conference title,” Olson said of Gladow’s outlook for his senior season. “He’s another one that has his eye on the prize and really feels like he belongs up front in the conference. I’m excited to see what he does this year.”
Gladow may be bit of a lone wolf on the course, but fellow veterans Chad Linnerooth, Calvin Howell and Jason Hight pack some punch only a few paces behind. Alex Mangan and Flint Martino could emerge as top-five runners in their second collegiate seasons.
Among the rookies, Michael O’Neil is one of the most promising talents. Four more freshmen, Adrian Cliffort, Tyler Griffin, Art O’Kelly and Chris Poole, are loaded with potential and are expected to develop into strong performers.
With the men returning six of seven members of the team that represented Linfield at the regional meet, and the women bringing back five, the 'Cats do not want for experience. Should the team stay healthy, and sustain its competitive focus throughout the fall, both programs should walk away much happier from the NWC Championships in November.
“We have a lot of leaders,” Olson said. “They took it upon themselves to keep each other accountable. I can already tell a difference as far as atmosphere. We’re here to get the job done.”