Veteran Central women’s cross country squad gets lift from large freshman class
PELLA — The Central College women’s cross country program emerges from the 2013 season as a restored team.
After navigating their way through some adversity in 2013, the Dutch are eyeing a loftier Iowa Conference finish than last year’s fourth-place effort behind a more experienced and balanced lineup.
“I think last year was a great rebuilding year for our team,” said coach Joe Dunham. “Our women really kind of came into their own and became the absolute definition of a team. We never really had a true frontrunner that was always in it to win it. However, we always finished tight as a pack, and that was something that I was always proud of. Our group of runners had the ability to run as a team and fight through adversity that way. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that pack running this year and trying to get our top five to finish as tightly as they can.”
Alyssa Eaves returns for her senior year after competing as Central’s No. 1 in 2013. Eaves recorded a 13th-place finish (23:58) at last year’s conference meet and ran her best time of the season when she finished 32nd (23:30.14) at the NCAA Division III Central Regional. Recognized by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association on its all-academic team, Eaves received all-conference honors and has twice been named to the league’s all-academic team.
“Alyssa will be our top returner and one of three captains,” Dunham said. “Like all of our athletes, Alyssa has a great work ethic and is poised to have a great senior year.”
Sophomore Kasey Wiedmaier also returns as one of Central’s top three. Wiedmaier ran as Central’s No. 2 in four of the six meets she competed in last fall, finishing a career-best 20th at the conference meet.
“Kasey is one of those athletes who I think will be making a pretty big jump from her freshman year to her sophomore year,” Dunham said.
Juniors Gabi Wilson and Molly Bramble both placed consistently in the top five in 2013 and will be looked at to fill the roles vacated by the graduated Daphne Baumgartner and Emma Nelson. Wilson, who finished 22nd overall (24:20) and third on the team at the league meet, ran a season best time of 24:09.2 at the Jim Drews/Tori Neubauer Invitational.
“Gabi has had to deal with an incredible amount of injuries during her time at Central,” Dunham said. “If she can get healthy and stay healthy, then she’ll be right in the top five again this year.”
A member of the academic all-conference team, Bramble ran as part of the top five through the first three races of the 2013 season, with her best time (24:21) coming at the Blugold Invitational in October.
“Molly is one of our more experienced runners and she should provide great stability in our top seven this fall,” Dunham said.
Like Wiedmaier, sophomore Andie Arthofer is also poised for a breakout year, according to Dunham.
“Andie ran with the varsity throughout last year and is another athlete that should push for a top-seven spot,” Dunham said. “Like Kasey, Andie will be making that big jump from her freshman year to her sophomore year. I really think that we’re going to get a lot out of Andie and she’ll surprise more than a few people this year.”
Arthofer posted a 2013 season-best finish of 16th at the Dutch Invitational and a season-best time of 25:52 at the St. Olaf Invitational.
The Dutch were also recognized in 2013 by the USTFCCCA for the fourth consecutive year with all-academic team honors. Teams are recognized by achieving a cumulative grade point average of 3.10 or greater, competing in at least five different varsity competitions with at least five runners representing their school at each meet. As a team, Central compiled a 3.17 GPA.
Dunham also welcomes in his largest recruiting class in his six years at Central.
“We have a great group of nine incoming freshmen this fall,” Dunham said. “I think the group is an aggressive and competitive one that will be able to contribute to the program right away. It is not only the largest group that we’ve ever had but it’s also our most talented incoming group since I have been a part of this program. Coach Stephen Fyfe led the charge in recruiting this group of young women and we are both extremely excited to get this season going.”
Central embarks on the 2014 season in early September with the running of the Dutch Invitational/Pre-Regional on Sept. 6. The meet marks the first of two events the Dutch will host this fall.
Following their home meet, the Dutch will then travel to the Gil Dodds Invitational at Wheaton (Ill.). This event allows Central the rare opportunity to see out-of-region opponents outside of the national championships.
“I’m excited for this team to have the opportunity to compete against different programs that are not in our region and to see a different course,” Dunham said. “All of these athletes have run on the same courses nearly every year and this particular course at Wheaton will allow us to see something different, especially with it coming off of our home meet.”
The fall slate is highlighted by the Nov. 15 NCAA Division III Central Regional, which for the first time will be run on Central’s highly regarded on-campus course.
Associate head coach Stephen Fyfe and assistant coach Jonathan Graupmann round out a coaching staff that Dunham says has helped separate the Central cross country program from its competition.
“I think one of the biggest things that separates our program from other programs is our support staff,” Dunham said. “Coach Fyfe has done an excellent job of working with our women’s team and helping to rebuild that program from the ground up. I’ve learned so much about distance training from Coach Fyfe and I give him a lot of credit for the success that both programs have had.”
A 1987 Central graduate, Fyfe is in his 16th season with the Dutch, working primarily with the women’s program.
Graupmann begins his second year with the program this fall and plays an integral role in the recruiting efforts and meet management.
“Jon has done a tremendous job with recruiting efforts and in helping to organize and run our meets,” Dunham said. “I think back to all the successful cross country programs and know that this is a total team effort. Without the right support staff, certain things like hosting a regional championship would not be possible.”