2003 Women’s Cross Country Preview

Posted on August 29th, 2003 by

So close and yet so far away. A year ago one point separated the Gustavus women’s cross country team from qualifying for the NCAA National Championships as a full squad. In fact, the Gusties had a faster average time than two out of the four teams that represented the Central Region at the national meet. That lingering disappointment from last fall has given this year’s squad the motivation necessary to aim for the program’s second ever appearance at the national championships and first berth since 1995.

Two national qualifiers from a year ago headline a deep and talented squad. Two-time all-conference and one-time all-region selection Nichole Petersen (JR, Arco, MN) and all-region honoree Jen Skalko (SR, Eveleth, MN) are expected to lead a Gustavus women’s cross country squad which returns all but three runners from last year’s team.

Head Coach Scott Jerome is hoping to build off of last season’s fourth place finish at the MIAC Championships and fifth place finish at the NCAA Regional. “This year we have the depth that we have lacked in recent years,” stated Jerome. “In the past Nichole and Jen have been way out in front and we have had a gap between them and our next level of runners. That does not appear to be the case this season.”

Petersen placed third at both the conference championship and regional meet and finished 43rd at the national competition a year ago. She is coming off of a record-breaking track and field season in which she set two indoor and two outdoor distance records. Skalko placed 13th at the regional and 105th at nationals last fall. She was one of the top three Gustie runners at every meet in which she competed.

While Petersen, a legitimate conference title contender, is still significantly in front of her teammates, several other athletes are contending for the remaining top four spots. At the team’s first time trial earlier this month, the second place finisher was only 32 seconds ahead of the ninth place runner.

“Now it does not have to be the same people every week,” Jerome said. “Having depth takes some pressure off so that if one of our athletes has an off week, it won’t mean the team will suffer greatly because of it.”

Headlining a group of newcomers are Nicole Olson (FY, Elk River, MN) and Hailey Harren (FY, Cold Spring, MN). Olson ran behind Petersen at the team’s first time trial, for the moment unseating Skalko, who finished third, as the team’s second fastest runner. Harren was sixth in the time trial and has the determination to become a successful collegiate runner.

Other top runners returning for the Gusties include Tasha Pike (JR, Rochester, MN), Anah Huggenvik (SR, Winona, MN), Mollie Lager (SO, Robbinsdale, MN), and Melissa Kittock (SO, Buffalo, MN).

Even though the team brings a wealth of talent to the 2003 season, Jerome knows it is going to be difficult to move up in the conference. “Last year we finished fourth, which was a disappointment, but we were still in the top third of the conference. St. Olaf is the team to beat, and St. Benedict and Carleton are going to be tough again with the possible addition of St. Thomas, which has a great track and field program. We know we can run in the top third, now it will be interesting to see if we can finish higher.”

Despite a difficult conference and region, Jerome thinks that there is potential for a national championship appearance. He is taking his top eight runners to Hanover, Indiana, site of this season’s NCAA Championships, to compete at the Hanover Invitational. “By going out there, our women will have an opportunity to get to know the course,” commented Jerome. “All of these athletes have a shot to go to nationals as a team and Nichole has a chance to earn All-America status.”

With the talent in place, Jerome knows his team will have to strike the balance between training hard and staying healthy over the season if the goals of a conference title and a national championship bid are going to become a reality. “Quite simply, we have to stay healthy and continue to train hard through this period and constantly try to get better.”

The first competition of the fall is at the St. Mary’s University Invite in Winona, Minnesota on August 30 at 10:00 am.

2002 Statistics

General Information
Name: Gustavus Adolphus College
Location: St. Peter, Minn.
Founded: 1862
Enrollment: 2,540
Nickname: Golden Gusties
School Colors: Black and Gold
Affiliation: NCAA Div. III
President: Jim Peterson
Athletic Director: Al Molde
Athletic Phone: (507) 933-7617

First year of cross country: 1980
NCAA National Qualifications as a team: 1
Last NCAA National Championship Appearance as a team: 1995 / 13th

Sports Information
Sports Info Director: Tim Kennedy
Work Phone: (507) 933-7647
Email: timgasid@gustavus.edu
Sports Info Cross Country Contact: Nick Huber
Work Phone: (507) 933-8411
Email: nhuber@gustavus.edu
SID Fax: (507) 933-8412
Web site: http://www.gustavus.edu/oncampus/athletics/wxc/

Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Scott Jerome
Alma Mater / Year: Bates College / 1993
Year at Gustavus: Fourth
Head Coach’s office phone: (507) 933-7632
Assistant Coach: Dale Bahr

Player Information
All Returning Letterwinners
Stacie Bulfer (SR, Fairmont, MN)
Ali Cordie (JR, Sartell, MN)
Anah Huggenvik (SR, Winona, MN)
Nichole Petersen (JR, Arco, MN)
Tasha Pike (JR, Rochester, MN)
Jen Skalko (SR, Eveleth, MN)

Letterwinners Lost

Key Newcomers
Hailey Harren (FY, Cold Spring, MN)
Nicole Olson (FY, Elk River, MN)

Letterwinners returning: Total: 6
Letterwinners lost: Total: 0
Top Five Returning: 5
Top Five Lost: 0

2003 Schedule
8/30 St. Mary’s Invitational
9/6 Hanover Invitational
9/6 St. John’s Invitational
9/13 Alumni Meet
9/20 Les Duke Inviational
9/27 Roy Griak Inviational
10/11 Dan Hustion Invitational
10/24 St. Olaf Dual
11/1 MIAC Championships
11/15 NCAA Regional Championships
11/22 NCAA National Championships

2002 Results
8/31 St. Mary’s Invite 1st of 5
9/7 St. John’s Invite 2nd of 12
9/21 Les Du ke Invitational 1st of 14
9/28 Roy Griak Invitational 5th of 19
10/12 Pre-National Meet 13th of 22
10/25 St. Olaf Dual 37-20
11/2 MIAC Championships 4th of 12
11/16 NCAA Regional Championships 5th of 22
11/23 NCAA National Championships NTS


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