September 6, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
The women of K-State Cross Country have been working hard all summer, and now it's their time to shine.
Kicking off its 2013 season at the JK Gold Classic Duals in Wichita tomorrow morning, the team is led by four runners whose consistency and passion for the sport have grown year-by-year into a group that head coach Mike Smith said is one of the best his program has ever seen.
Senior Martina Tresch, juniors Laura Galvan and Erika Schiller and sophomore Mary Frances Donnelly will be looked upon this year to help the Wildcats build what could be one of the team's strongest seasons in K-State history.
Smith said the team has more depth than he's ever seen, which is a big deal considering he's been with the program for 20 years.
"Largely in this sport, what you do in the summer is going to dictate how you do in the fall, and they did a good job over the summer," Smith said, "I feel like we have a good group and that we've had more depth than we've had since I've been here. There's more quality than we've had in the past, so I hope it makes a difference this season."
Leading the group is Galvan, who came to K-State from her hometown, the mountainous Guanajuato, Mexico. Her first season as a Wildcat was spent transitioning to not only a new country and language, but also to a new climate to train in.
The adjustment of the new culture and lifestyle didn't stop Galvan, though, as the following year, her sophomore season, she broke K-State's all-time 6K record with a time of 20:19.5 while placing 45th at the NCAA Championship.
Galvan placed 11th at the Big 12 Championships in 2012 and in the top 10 in four of the team's six races last year.
Looking forward, her goals are to build off of last season's success and continue to anchor the women's squad.
"Of course I want to do better," Galvan said. "Hopefully everything is going to come together again and I'll try to just be better than last year. (My) goal is getting in good shape for Big 12's and hopefully take the team to the next level."
Along with being fierce competitors on the run, the team made a statement in the classroom last season as it was named USTFCCCA 2012 Division I Cross Country Women's All-Academic Team, and Galvan and Schiller were both named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team.
Smith had nothing but good to say about Schiller, a product of Desoto, Kan., and said after a solid sophomore campaign where she recorded four top-25 finishes and finished 25th in the 2012 Big 12 Championship, he is excited to see what she will bring to the team this season.
For Donnelly, having Schiller by her side has played a big role in her success so far.
"Some of my best friends are on the team, Erica especially. She took me under her wings last year," Donnelly said. "She showed me the ropes. She's only a year older than me, so she knew how it felt being a freshman and that has really helped."
Donnelly, from Prairie Village, Kan., ran in all six races her freshman year and placed fifth at last year's JK Gold Classic. She finished the 2012 season placing 23rd in the Big 12 Championships and is excited to get back on track as she continues to reach her goals.
"I'm focusing more on the end of the season and I just want to strive to help them achieve our teams goals," Donnelly said. "Just looking at how well we're doing right now, I know we're going to build off of that, so I'm really excited."
As for Tresch, Smith said she "is sort of a secret weapon because I don't know that our competitors know she's back. They might be kind of surprised when we throw her our there."
Tresch, from Rueti, Switzerland, opened her K-State cross country career on a high note as she won the 2009 JK Gold Classic. In 2011 she placed ninth in the Big 12 Championships and placed in the top 10 in four out of six races.
After taking the 2012 season off from cross country but continuing to compete with K-State Track and Field, Tresch now rejoins her cross country teammates.
"Those four have been through it all," Smith said. "Two of them have been to the NCAA meet and all four of them have been in the top 25 of the Big 12. We have four veteran, fit, ready-to-go women that are just looking for a race. They're chomping at the bit right now to get a race, so it should be a fun season."
FRESHMEN TO WATCH FOR
Smith said along with his core group of upperclassmen on the women's team, two freshmen have really stood out to him since the team's training began on Aug. 20.
Freshmen Morgan Wedekind, from Wichita and Heather Ruder, from Hays will also be looked upon to impact the team this season.
"Morgan is a freshman, but she is quickly adjusting and showing signs of being ready to run now at the level that we want her to run at the end of the year. She and Heather Ruder - those two have shown that they did well over the summer and they prepared properly, and I'm hopeful that they just jump right in this weekend."
From the new faces to the returning ones Smith said he is excited to see how the 2013 season pans out.
"I'm really encouraged with our women. We brought in six freshmen and they've all adapted and they're making progress. Some of them are going to contribute right away," Smith explained. "In 2010 we were 25th at the NCAA meet, and I think we have a better group now. I'm hopeful that we could be even better if things go well for us."
HOPEFUL SEASON FOR THE WILDCAT MEN
The K-State men's cross country team is a young one, made up of six freshmen, two sophomores, two juniors and only one senior.
"On the men's side, we're really young. We got lucky in recruiting and some of them are pretty good, so I'm optimistic that we'll be able to hold it together and be competitive," Smith said. "I would say with the men's team I'm just looking forward to seeing how the young guys gel and handle Big 12 competition. We won't find out for a little while because they'll be racing against lower-level competition but then, three, four weeks from now, things will get serious and we'll find out what they're made of."
Looking to pace the men's squad is junior Fernando Roman, from Cayey, Puerto Rico, and senior Ryan Hersher, from Lexington, Ohio, both of whom finished in the top 60 of the NCAA Championships last year. Roman earned Big 12 Runner of the Week honors after his first meet with K-State one year ago as he won the JK Gold Classic with a 6K time of 18:37.
"They're all more competitive than the groups that we've had in the past," Smith said, "so I'm optimistic that (the men's team) will grow, mature together and be good over time."
VOLLEYBALL OPENS HOME SLATE
After beginning the season a perfect 3-0 and winning the UNLV invitational last weekend, K-State volleyball will open its home play against Southeast Missouri State at noon today in Ahearn Field House. Then, later this evening the Wildcats will take on Southern Illinois at 7:30 pm. All-time, the Wildcats are 2-0 against Southeast Missouri State, but 0-2 against Southern Illinois.
Tomorrow, at 1 p.m., K-State will take on Siena for the first meeting between the two programs. All fans attending K-State's football game against Louisiana will have the opportunity to buy volleyball tickets for Saturday's game for just $3 after showing their football tickets at the Ahearn Field House box office.
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh, Mark Janssen or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.