The Northwestern Red Raider cross country team is excited to kick off another year. After a solid year of good competition and individual efforts, the team is looking to rebuild following the loss of 12 seniors.
“We had some great leaders last year, and they will be missed,” said head coach Scott Bahrke. “My captains and upperclassmen have done a good job filling those roles and helping unite this club.”
This year the team will be lead on the women’s side by senior Dawn Gildersleeve; she is a three-year letter earner and the team’s top runner. Seniors Jackie Niewenhuis and Janet Pitsenberger will make some contributions. Juniors Amber Sandbulte and Sarah Wittenberg are key returners and top finishers from last season. Sophomore Kelly Thurman is returning after a standout freshman campaign and is followed by three freshman who are looking to have a solid impact on the team this year.
“I believe this team is stronger and definitely packed together more,” Thurman said. “We didn’t finish as strong as we wanted last year, but I think we can definitely improve our standings in conference.”
On the men’s side seven of the team’s eight top runners will be returning. Seniors Taylor Bodin and Zach Wittenberg will lead this team that has depth in each class. Juniors Skyler Giddings, Logan Hovland, Anthony Epp and Jose Martinez all return and posted top 25 finishes on the year. A strong core of sophomore returners include Kyle Anderson, Elliot Stoltz and Caleb VanderBaan. There are also six freshman that could potentially make an impact this year.
“We have a very talented group of guys, with a few that have potential to make it to nationals,” Martinez said. “There are some varsity spots that will be heavily contended by several guys but that will only make us stronger.”
The team’s first meet is tonight at Augustana in Sioux Falls. The night run will begin at 8:30 p.m.