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Wednesday, 28 August 2013 17:48

BU Hopes to Lean on Veteran Leadership

Jenna Stanbrough is one of four seniors on this team 2013 team Jenna Stanbrough is one of four seniors on this team 2013 team

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. – Baker University head cross country and track and field coach Zach Kindler ended the 2013 season highly decorated not only for his team but for himself as well.

The 2013 men's cross country and track and field team earned what is called the running sports HAAC "Triple Crown" with team championships in the 2012 HAAC men's cross country meet, the 2013 HAAC men's indoor track and field meet and the 2013 HAAC men's outdoor track and fField meet.

For that success, Kindler earned the HAAC Coach of the Year honor for all three of those championships.

Under his leadership on the women's side, that squad just barely missed out on a "Triple Crown"of its own. The women placed second in the HAAC cross country meet before winning championships in the HAAC indoor and outdoor track and field meets.

To accomplish a feat like that takes perseverance, great teaching and organizational leadership by its coaches in addition to having gifted athletes.

"Last year was definitely one of the most exciting years I have ever had in any level of cross country or track and field," said Kindler. "Our men's cross country team finished in 10th place at the national meet, we had some success in the indoor season and finished sixth in the women's outdoor national meet and 11th in the men's outdoor national meet and had a national champion in Jeremy Gathright in the 400 meter.

"I think the success rides on the overall attitude of our athletes. They have always been very motivated and positive and have a drive to be successful. But it's also our coaches. Coach Mackie Valentin does a great job preparing our athletes, and we will have a couple of new graduate assistants coming in here. They will have big shoes to fill with what our previous GA's did for us."

Kindler's men's cross country team will have a primarily new look in 2013, with the loss of his top five runners from a year ago. The Wildcats will be without HAAC individual champion Jeremy Bryan along with his brother Justin, and 2012 seniors Aaron Caldwell, Eric Larson and Taylor Nall graduated in May.

So the Wildcats will look for seniors Cooper Clark, Garrett McPherson and junior Vincent Tadokoro to lead the squad.

"We finished with one of our highest ever finishes at the national meet a year ago and we are basically in a rebuilding mode from last season," said Kindler. "It's going to test us and see what kind of character we have and see what determination we have. But at the same time I am excited for the team we have, and I know they will put in the effort and hard work it takes to be successful.

"But we have some solid returners back, as junior Vincent Tadokoro comes back. He was one of our top seven runners a year ago. Cooper Clark was also a top seven runner for us and we expect both of them as upperclassmen to lead our team. Garrett McPherson is a senior I expect to come in and be a leader for us.

"It's going to be a process with this team but with those three top returners along with some other returners and our newcomers, we hope we can get it in gear and become the team we hope to be."

Five freshmen join the team this season, as Andre Dare (Olathe, Kan.), Andrew Emanuel (Shawnee, Kan.), Jamie Sturery (Olathe, Kan.), Carter Breithaupt (Overland Park, Kan.) and Corey Matteson (Clovis, Calif.) join the team.

The women's cross country team returns all three of its participants in the 2012 NAIA women's cross country national championship meet.

Two-time HAAC individual champion senior Lauren Jaqua is one of those returners. The runner from Lansing, Kan., took a team-high 60th at the national meet in Vancouver, Wash., in a time of 19:04.

Ashley McBride and Kerry Kurta placed 135th and 216th respectively. McBride finished the 5K race in 19:45, and Kurta finished in 20:24.

McBride returns for BU for her senior season and Kurta will run as a junior this year. Another key returner is senior Megan Rosa. Rosa is coming off a stellar outdoor track season in which she won the HAAC outdoor track and field championship in the women's 10,000-meter and 5,000-meter races.

"I believe we could have one of the more talented teams we have had since I have been here," said Kindler. "With the returners we have and a really good senior class and some great newcomers, we could have a team that goes after a conference title.

"We are definitely excited to have back Lauren Jaqua," he continued. "She has had a lot of success for our women's team. Megan Rosa had an outstanding track season and we hope she can carry that into the fall. Kerry Kurta is back. She will be in the Baker University School of Nursing program in Topeka, but she will continue to run for us and train on her own but then will compete for us as well. We expect her to continue to run well for us because she has been there before and had a lot of success in the past.

"Ashley McBride is back for us as well. She had an outstanding year for us last year. Jenna Stanbrough is back her senior year, too. So with that core of returners, we expect them to lead our new class of runners."

Both teams open up the 2013 season on its home course with the Maple Leaf Invitational at Baldwin City Country Club on Saturday, Aug. 31. The women's race begins at 9:30 a.m. and the men start at approximately 9:55 a.m.

The Wildcats will compete in six races throughout the season, leading up to the HAAC Championship race in Marshall, Mo., hosted by Missouri Valley University.

Baker will be fortunate to not have to travel a great distance to the 2013 NAIA Cross Country National Championships if they are granted the opportunity with teams wins at the HAAC Championships, as this year's NAIA national meet will be held in Lawrence, Kan., at the Rim Rock Farms Course.

Baker competes on that course at the University of Kansas' annual Rim Rock Farm Bob Timmons Classic meet each Fall in Lawrence and will have the fortune being very familiar with the course. But Coach Kindler knows its takes a team championship in the HAAC meets and a long healthy season to accomplish a bid to the national meet.

"A lot of our runners ran on that course at Rim Rock in their state meet," said Kindler. "So they are excited about that opportunity to potentially run there at nationals. But it all depends on how we run in the HAAC championship meet.

"This year the HAAC meet is in Marshall, Mo., hosted by Missouri Valley. They are developing a new course out there in which we have never raced. But if we run hard and have the opportunity to race at nationals it's nice to have it right here in our back yard in Lawrence.

"We have been fortunate to have a select group of parents and supporters travel with us to Fort Vancouver, Wash., for nationals. But it would be great to see even more Baker orange at the meet if we can qualify for nationals here in Lawrence."

The national meet will take place on Saturday, Nov. 23. For more details on Baker cross country, please visit www.bakerwildcats.com.

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