Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.
Head Coach: Helen Lehman-Winters (10th Season)
2012 National Finish- N/A
Key Returners from 2012
- Eva Krchova (Sr., 9:17 Open 3k, 9:54 3k Steeple)
- Jana Soethout (Sr., 16:11 5k, 34:07 10k)
- Sophie Curl (Sr., 4:18 1500m, 9:27 Open 3k)
- Laura Suur (Sr., 9:14 Open 3k, 16:23 5k)
- Elena Burkard (So., 20th West Region, 2nd WCC, 17:03 5k)
- Bridget Dahlberg (Sr., 9:20 Open 3k, 16:05 5k)
This almost completely senior-laden squad is quite possibly the best team in San Francisco's history and is ready for big things in 2013. Coming out of the West Regional is nigh to impossible every year and has played a big role in why USF has not made more NCAAs. This is the year that USF could shock the country and many teams in their region.
With all but one girl in their top seven being a senior, the Dons are stacked with talent, experience and motivated athletes.
Four foreign girls lead this team and add high level experience having run at the top levels in Europe for the majority of their lives (in the off-season). This will prove helpful in the big races that matter because these women have the experience and the race savvy so crucial to running well in big races.
The most intriguing aspect of this team lies in the battle for the no. 1 spot. Any one of these six girls listed above are capable of being no. 1 at any race. This will make USF that much better as each runner will be battling to get for the top position at every meet.
Eva Krchova is the team's best steepler (9th at the World University Games this summer) and her size (6'1") will come to help her in the big races as she will command space up front. Jana Soethout was a NCAA qualifier in the 10k and will be motivated to improve from a less than stellar outing there (DNF). Her ability to go long is going to be crucial towards the end of the season and especially after the quick turn around to NCAAs after Regionals.
Laura Suur is another tall European athlete (5'10") that did not race this past spring outdoors and should be fit and healthy heading into the upcoming season. Sophie Curl has the best speed of the group and redshirted cross in 2012, but finished 87th at NCAAs in 2011. Elena Burkard was a pleasant surprise for the Dons in 2012 where she finished second on the team at West Coast Conference and was 20th overall at the West Regional. As the lone non-senior in this top seven, she might have the greatest upside on the team. Maor Tiyouri is another very solid pack runner that proves consistency and stability.
The wildcard for USF is Boston College grad student transfer Bridget Dahlberg. Dahlberg is another very quality and experienced veteran of cross country and will provide "instant offense" to the Dons up front. Bridget has the best 5k track PR on the team and will immediately impact the top five up front for Coach Winters' squad.
The only thing keeping USF back from the NCAA meet is the West Regional. For the past few years this has been arguably the toughest region in the land and will prove difficult for the Dons once again. if they can finish top five and earn the credential points early on, they should see themselves at the Big Dance where they will make a splash with the excellent group of girls returning that are motivated for success at the national level.