1981 NCAA Div. III champions
2014 Iowa Conference finish: Fourth place
2014 NCAA Division III Central Regional finish: 15th place
Starters lost: 3 (Alyssa Eaves, Kenzie Foldes, Emily Linscheid)
Starters returning: 4 (Molly Bramble, Evie Kammeyer, Holly McKinney, Kasey Wiedmaier)
Letterwinners lost/returning: 6/9
After a fourth-place finish in the Iowa Conference for the third straight year, Central College women’s cross country coach Joe Dunham believes that an older team could get over the hump and finish in the top three.
With three underclassmen helping to fill out the varsity seven at the Iowa Conference Cross Country Championships, the Dutch were very young last season. After an encouraging track season from all the distance runners, especially last year’s freshman class, Dunham expects to see improvement on the course this fall.
“I’m very excited about where our women’s program is right now,” he said. “What we saw at the end of the track season last year from our younger runners was very exciting.”
Despite the graduation of Alyssa Eaves, the team’s top finisher at the conference meet the past two seasons, Dunham believes in the depth of this year’s squad.
“I think this team will have its strength in numbers,” he said. “We’re going to have to learn how to pack run. Our strength is going to be in numbers and not necessarily in our front runners. The tighter we can keep our first and fifth runners together, the better off we will be.”
Senior Molly Bramble is likely to be atop the Central lineup this fall. She was Central’s second finisher at the conference meet last fall and ran a career-best 23:48 on the 6,000 meter course at the NCAA Division III Central Regional.
“Molly will be one of our leaders this year,” Dunham said. She’s going to do great things for us and be a great leader for the program.”
Right behind Bramble could be sophomore Holly McKinney. During her freshman season, McKinney saved her best for last, finishing in 23:49 and just behind Bramble at the regional meet.
“I’m really excited about Holly’s potential,” Dunham said. “She’s coming off a phenomenal track season. I know that she’s taken a big step in her training this summer, which will pay dividends during the cross country season.”
Another member of last year’s freshman class, Evie Kammeyer, could make waves during her sophomore campaign. Nagged by injuries at time during the fall, Kammeyer still was able to finish 25th at the conference meet in a time of 24:17.
“Evie is one of those athletes who is just beginning to develop confidence,” Dunham said. “She’s got a lot of talent and a lot of ability. She’s going to play a key role in how the team does this year.”
The fourth returner from Central’s top seven last season is junior Kasey Widemaier. A top 25 finisher at the conference meet in 2013 and 2014, Wiedmaier fits well in Central’s pack-running scheme.
“We continue to see her improve every season,” Dunham said. “I don’t think it will be any different this season. She’s gained a lot of confidence in her running and I’m excited to see what that looks like this fall.”
The last three spots in Central’s lineup are up for grabs for the rest of the roster to try and fill. Juniors Andie Arthofer and Cassidy Gornick both finished in the top five at least once last year. Other options will include seniors Leaha Earnest, Heidi Heckenberg, Jackie Piper and sophomores Kendra Conforti, Abby Fyfe and Caitlin Novak.
Dunham is optimistic about the freshmen that will join the program this fall. The class features four runners whom Dunham believes could also push their way into the varsity line up.
“One of the most exciting things about the program is our freshman class,” he said. “We’ve got a good class coming in that will be fighting to score at varsity meets.”
Dunham heads a three-man coaching staff once again this season. Associate head coach Stephen Fyfe will continue to work primarily with the women’s team, having been with the program since 1999. Fyfe has twice been the interim head coach of both cross country teams during the 2006 and 2008 seasons. Assistant Jon Graupmann also works with the Central’s track and field program.
“Coach Fyfe has done a great job,” Dunham said. “The women really look to him and he really coaches them on a day-to-day basis.”
The season starts with Central hosting the Dutch Invitational on September 5. Central will run in the Loras Invitational in Dubuque on October 16. The course for that meet is the same one that will host the conference meet on October 31.
“We’ll get a chance to experience that course and let our athletes run there before the conference meet,” Dunham said. “It’s a challenging course with hills and an open field that you can fall asleep in. There are some things there that I think they need to see. It’s not one of those courses you can just show up and have a good race. You need to see it and know what you’re getting into before the race.”
After the conference meet, the team returns home to host the NCAA Division III Central Regional for the second consecutive year. Competing in a region loaded with talent, Dunham knows that finishing in the top three and earning a trip to the national meet will be difficult.
“It’s a good challenging schedule,” Dunham said. “There’s not too much travel, but there’s still an opportunity for our athletes to get better and gain confidence.”