Purdue Cross Country Season Preview

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue men’s and women’s cross country programs look to continue improving in 2009, heading into their sixth season under head coach Jack Warner. Both sides return their top runners from 2008, and look to jump a few spots on the Big Ten scale this season.

Assistant coach Conor Holt enters his third season with the Boilermakers, while the squad welcomes first-year assistant Lisa Senakiewich to her inaugural campaign in West Lafayette. The pair will combine efforts in direction of both squads this season as both bring excellent credentials and experience.

"We’re very excited to have a pair of standout assistants in Conor (Holt) and Lisa (Senakiewich)," said Warner. "Conor has great experience and training methods, and a solid overall attitude regarding the program and its direction, while Lisa’s athletic achievements speak for themselves and she has a wonderful passion for competition and success."

Holt helped rebuild the Oregon State women’s distance program before heading to Purdue, while Senakiewich was a 2009 All-American in cross country and track and field for Big Ten rival Michigan State.

The Boilermaker men will see a lot of new faces in the lineup in 2009, but maintain the services of returning junior Caden Shields and sophomore Cale Allen. Shields trained through the majority of the 2008 campaign, acclimating to the American climate after transferring from the University of Otago in New Zealand, but came on late to turn in solid times, including a time of 32:19.2 at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships to lead the Old Gold and Black.

Allen was one of the conference’s top freshmen last season, and will look to build on that this year. Allen posted the Boilermakers’ top 8K time in 2008, crossing the line in 24:34.9 at the Auburn Tiger Invitational.

With nine new members on the team in 2009, Purdue expects major contributions from sophomore transfers Simon Rogers and Charles White, and first-year Steven Schulz. Rogers followed Shields over from the University of Otago after earning 2007 New Zealand High School Track and Field Athlete of the Year honors and placing fourth in the national cross country championship.

White earned All-America honors at the 2008 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships after a 40th-place individual effort for Abilene Christian University, which he led to a fourth-place team finish. Schulz earned all-state honors at the Ohio High School Championships in 2008, finishing ninth overall, and set the Mentor High School record for 5K with a time of 15:39.0.

The Boilermaker women have several more returners than the men’s squad, but will be equally impacted by some new talent. Senior standouts Kristin Phillips and Katie Morrical lead the way, achieving some of the top times in school history over the past few years and looking to build on those this season. Phillips ran the fourth-fastest 5K all-time at Purdue last year, crossing the line in 16:39.9 at the Auburn Tiger Invitational, and owns the second-fastest 5K on the Boilermakers home course, following Morrical.

Morrical’s course record of 17:39.2 came at the 2008 Indiana Intercollegiate Championships, where she led the Boilermakers to their second straight state title. Morrical also owns the second and third-best 6K times in Purdue history, running a top time of 20:56.3 at the 2007 Big Ten Championships in Columbus, Ohio. Other returners looking to contribute are sophomores Stephanie Bonk and Katie Conrad, who both scored on several occasions last year.

Newcomers expected to contribute in 2009, include New Zealanders Camille Buscomb and Alice Feslier Holmes, and Indiana natives Kayla and Kelly McCurdy and Linsey Daluga. Buscomb enters her second semester in West Lafayette, joining the Boilermakers in January for the 2009 track and field season. She was a three-time winner of the New Zealand 5,000-meter road championship, and competed in the 2007 World Youth Championships.

Feslier Holmes has several national placings and achievements from New Zealand as well, including a third-place finish at the 2009 International Track Meet with a time of 4:51.61. Kayla and Kelly McCurdy hail from Carmel, Ind., where they led Carmel High School to the 2008 Indiana State High School Cross Country Championship and the 4×800-meter relay state title. Kelly placed third individually at the state cross country meet, while Kayla took home 12th.

Daluga is home-grown talent, making the short trip to Purdue from West Lafayette High School. She was a four-time state qualifier for the Red Devils and placed in the top-25 individually three times.

"We’re thrilled about the prospects of both squads," said Warner. "Both squads and our coaching staff have put in some hard work in preparation for this season, and we’re very confident that we’ll see the fruits of our labor in 2009."

The Boilermakers kick off their season this Friday at home with the Great American Legends race. Check the Purdue Cross Country home page for more information on the team.

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