Loyola’s women’s cross country team is stacked with returning talent. With a large group of returners comes an overwhelming amount of experience on the squad. The Ramblers have high hopes to build off last year’s season as the 2015 season begins.
Sophomore Emma Hatch said she believes it’s beneficial that the team has a lot of returning talent and familiarity.
“I think it helps a lot,” said Hatch. “We’ve known each other for at least a year. We know each other’s racing styles.”
The team was plagued with injuries and many obstacles last season. Hatch, an economics and math double major, said she has confidence that this past experience will pay off in the long run.
Senior Sydney Stuenkle, a marketing major, was one of many Loyola runners who didn’t run in the conference championship last year because of an injury. Stuenkle said she knows that even one missing runner can have a major impact on a team.
“We stayed tough and strong, despite all the [injuries],” said Stuenkle. “[But] I think we lost some confidence last year from not getting as much training in from being injured … we need to stay confident.”
But a new season can mean a new start. The team is healthy and chomping at the bit to become more competitive, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaches. Assistant coach Jackie Kropp knows how hard it is to meet the standards the players have set for themselves.
“[We have] to fight for a top three place, which is going to be our goal throughout the season,” said Kropp.
“They all came back fit, and they’re really strong, and they have at least a year of experience coming into this season. I think that’s going to play a huge role as we get to some of the championship events.”
“The preseason rankings are fair,” said Hasenbank. “We had a really strong group of young runners at the conference meet [last season]. When they finished … I told them, ‘A year from now I think you can make a difference in this thing’ … We have a lot to prove.”
Five freshmen bolster the roster full of experience this season, but they’re not simply here to hide in the shadows of the veteran runners. The returning athletes said they are impressed with their new teammates’ attitudes. Hatch, who is looking to step up as a leader of the team, said she is pleased with the freshmen.
“They seem very focused and determined,” Hatch said. “They’ve come in very fit and have taken the summer training very seriously. I’m excited to see how they race.”
Stuenkle said she recognizes that everyone, from the freshmen to the seniors, is integral to the success of the team.
“We have a lot of leadership … but I feel that everyone has input,” Stuenkle said. “It’s not just the juniors and seniors. Everyone has a say.”
Hasenbank, who is entering his fifth year as head coach of the men’s and women’s teams, said he’s optimistic that the women’s team will improve this season.
“We have … very capable freshmen on the women’s side,” Hasenbank said. “With a good system in place, I feel like they can step in there and make positive contributions.”
The Ramblers begin their season on Sept. 4 in the Thomas Zimmer Open in Madison, Wisconsin.