The Wheaton Thunder women’s cross country team has begun fall practice and will kick off its season at the Aurora Spartan classic on Saturday, Sept. 9 when the team will compete against 10 other schools around the Chicago area. Despite the team losing significant talent in last year’s graduated class, the Thunder’s incoming freshman will be given the opportunity to have significant roles at each meet.
Unfortunately, the team must also battle through temporary injuries to captain runners Ellie Hawthorne and Elise Topazian. Coaches David Walford and Scott Bradley will be especially eager for their incoming freshman to play large roles in this year’s meets.
Like all Wheaton teams, freshman have the opportunity to show off their skills in practice before the start of the season. However, even more so than previous years, the freshmen on the 2016 cross country team will be heavily relied upon as soon as next week.
“They are really strong this year,” senior captain Allison Collins said of the freshman, “and will help fill the holes that have been made by injuries and graduated runners.”
With the addition of the freshman, the coaches will also be relying on senior Jackie Smith who has been a consistent performer in her first three years on the team. Over her Wheaton career, she has decreased her times by nearly a minute each year. She also finished last year with a season-best time of 23:21 at the NCAA DIII Midwest Regional Championships.
All in all, the coaches will be looking to key upperclassman and captains to lead the team during this season’s meets. For the newly-welcomed freshman, they may have to grow up a bit quicker than initially expected. Hopefully, this will be a precursor to not only strong freshman campaigns, but successful careers as part of the women’s cross country team.
The squad begins their season Sept. 9 and will compete in the Aurora University Spartan Cross Country Classic.