1981 NCAA Div. III champions
Even though the lineup will be almost entirely new, the Central College women’s cross country program got a lift from the team’s first trip to the NCAA Division III championships in 28 years.
It was a breakthrough season in 2009. Central placed fourth in the NCAA Division III Central Regional and 19th in the national meet at Cleveland, Ohio. The Dutch may have just one returnee from the top seven at that meet but last season’s accomplishments paved the way for even brighter days ahead, second-year coach Joe Dunham said.
“We want to keep that confidence and keep that pride from what was established,” Dunham said.
Two veterans of that national trip return, but only one may see action. Junior Melanie Louis is sidelined by injury and it’s not certain when she’ll be cleared to run.
That leaves sophomore Mel McDermott, who had an encouraging rookie year. She was Central’s No. 5 runner at both the regional and national meets.
“Mel’s obviously going to be a great leader,” Dunham said. “She’s a hard worker and wants to have success.”
The Dutch do have some other veterans as well. Senior Meghann Burt will share captain’s duties with McDermott. Other seniors include Liz Arentsen, Sara Crippen, Claudia Garcia and Molly Von Holten.
Junior Maggie Wehde was in Europe through Central College Abroad last fall but is coming off a strong track and field season.
“She’s making good progress,” Dunham said.
Jenna Broghammer is another promising sophomore.
“She made great strides as a freshman,” Dunham said. “If we keep her healthy I think she’ll do some great things.”
Amanda Melcher of Libertyville transferred to Central after sitting out the cross country season last year and is likely to push for a varsity position.
Dunham also expects several freshmen to quickly make their presence known, drawing comparisons with last year’s seniors.
“None of those women at the national meet last year were all-state cross country runners,” he said. “They just worked hard and defied expectations. I see a lot of that in these freshmen.”
Newcomers include Daphne Baumgartner of Perry, Amanda Dunkin and Heidi Schulte of Pella, Kristen Fariss and Emma Nelson of Pekin, Maddie Frehe of DeSoto, Kan. and Shelby Mendoza of Norwalk.
“Usually relying on freshmen isn’t a situation you want,” said Dunham. “But I have confidence in these runners.”
Patience is the key.
“The freshmen have to get used to running 6,000 meters,” Dunham said. “That will take time.”
Wartburg and Luther loom as the top threats again in the Iowa Conference.
“I think we’ll be better than people think,” Dunham said. “If we’re in the top 10 in the regional meet with such a young team, that would be great.”