HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky.
- The men’s cross country team at Northern Kentucky University
is expecting its tough schedule to pay off this season by the time
the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Regional meet rolls around Nov.
is the toughest that Northern has ever attempted, but the reason
being is so that when we get to the Great Lakes Valley Conference
and the NCAA Regional, we have virtually no fear of any team that
we toe the line against,” NKU head coach Steve Kruse said.
“If we can run our races and compete the way we know we are
capable, the sky may be the limit for this team.”
The first challenge
for the Norse is the Dayton Flyer Invitational on Sept. 3 in Dayton,
Ohio, which is traditionally a Division I meet. Last season, NKU
was the only Division II team that competed in that event.
“Our season opener
will be among the toughest meets we run in all year,” Kruse
said. “All the teams there offer very strong cross country
programs. It will be a great way to see how we have prepared this
NKU will follow with
the Norse Invitational on Sept. 9 at A.J. Jolly in Alexandria, Ky.
Last season, the team finished second behind Lewis and had three
runners place in the top 20.
The GLVC Championships
will be Oct. 8 in Rensselaer, Ind. The Norse finished in fifth place
last season at the GLVC Championships.
Kruse will be looking
to his two senior captains, Greaham Niemer and Denny Kramer, to
lead the team this season. Last season, Niemer posted an 18th-place
finish at the conference meet, while Kramer finished 35th.
“(Niemer and Kramer)
are very hard working and very eager to make this year the best
one ever for themselves and their teammates,” Kruse said.
“Our younger runners will need to step up in the years to
come to continue the leadership trend which these two have set.”
Keith Knapp, a sophomore
from Florence, Ky., is also back for the Norse. Last season, Knapp
was named the GLVC Freshman of the Year after finishing 11th in
the conference meet. Knapp also helped the Norse capture the team
title at the Greensboro Invitational with a first-place finish last
The Norse also welcome
back talented sophomores Brad Bullock and Adam Stoppelwerth. Kruse
also added freshmen Zach Koehler, Matthew Shoulta and Keenan Kruskamp
to the team and is expecting them to be competitive along with the
“The team has
a good mix of senior leadership, long on dedication and sacrifice,
coupled with some very young talent in the sophomore and freshman
classes,” Kruse said. “Last year’s fifth-place
GLVC finish will be improved upon, even with the addition of (GLVC
newcomers Rockhurst, Drury and Misssouri-Rolla).”
If the NKU women’s
cross country team hopes to improve upon its fifth-place finish
at the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championships, the Norse will
have to overcome the injuries currently bothering the team.
“Right now, we
are in no condition to think of anything beyond our first two meets
because of so many injuries,” Kruse said. “There has
been talk of getting some runners out to the national meet in November,
which is not out of the question. But drastic healing and strong
faith will be needed.”
The Norse’s top
returning runner, Tracy Carskadon, is one of the runners battling
an injury to start the season.
off to a rocky start and may miss a few early meets due to a nagging
knee injury,” Kruse said, “but she is a very determined
athlete. It would be ill advised for the competition to count her
Carskadon earned All-Conference
and All-Region honors last season. She was the top runner in at
every meet last year for the Norse, and she led the team with two
individual race victories. Carskadon finished 11th at the NCAA regional
meet and just missed qualifying for the NCAA Division II nationals.
Carskadon set a Norse
record in the six-kilometer run with a time of 22:45 at the GLVC
Championships, and two weeks later she broke the record again at
the NCAA regionals (22:44).
Joining Carskadon in
the captain position is senior Lisa Sand. Sand finished 46th last
season at the conference championships.
“(Sand) has worked
extraordinarily hard over the last 10 months to regain some of the
confidence she used to run with,” Kruse said. “Lisa
and Tracy have very different leadership styles, and they’ll
be joining forces to lead this young team to a successful season.”
Also returning for NKU
is Julianne Hoekzema, a sophomore from Fairfield, Ohio. Hoekzema’s
second-place finish at the Greensboro Invitational helped the Norse
capture the team title last season. She also finished 24th at the
no doubt be among our top runners, if not the top runner, at most
of our races this year,” Kruse said. “She had some bad
luck with late-season injuries in 2004 and struggled to regain her
health during track. She is definitely ready now.”
The Norse welcome several
newcomers Kruse is expecting to contribute throughout the season.
One newcomer Kruse anticipates to step up this season is Rose Jepkirui,
a talented runner from Kenya.
“Rose is yet unproven
since she is also fighting back from some injuries. She has her
plate full right now just trying to adjust to the day-to-day changes
from her home country,” Kruse said. “She has the opportunity
to take the competition by storm if all goes well.”
The Norse will be looking
for freshmen Lindsey Bendure and Terri Arlinghaus to offer strong
competition this fall.
NKU opens its season
Sept. 3 at the Dayton Invitational in Dayton, Ohio, followed by
the Norse Invitational the following week on Sept. 9 at 4:30 p.m.
The GLVC Championships
will take place in Rensselaer, Ind. on Oct. 22. with the NCAA regional
meet two weeks later on Nov. 5.
“Dayton will be
tough, but hands down, the toughest competition we will face will
be at the NCAA regionals,” Kruse said. “At that time,
the Great Lakes Region will no doubt have up to six teams in the
top 25 nationally. It will be a real battle and one that the entire
team is looking forward to.”