The 2008 University of Nevada cross country team is the deepest and most talented squad during head coach Kirk Elias’ four-year tenure and this season’s team has all the tools needed to contest for a WAC title.
“I’m excited to see what this season’s team can do,” Elias said. “I think we’ll be in contention for a WAC title and if things go well we’ll be a dark-horse for a national berth. Nevada has never had a team qualify for nationals. Doing so would all some real drama to the season.”
“We are going to take things one at a time and focus on running well early to create the mindset we need for the WAC title and a National berth,” Elias said.
Nevada returns five of their top six including a dynamic top three of Christa Avena, Sam Davis and Natalia Jarawka. The trio finished 2-4-6 at the conference meet in 2007 while the team took second for the second year in a row. In addition to having most of their scorers back, the Wolf Pack should be bolstered by the return of Amanda Moreno, who missed last season with an injury after finishing sixth at the WAC Championships as a freshman.
The Pack also return Chelsea Chauvet-Moore, Janet Martinez, Kristin Palmer, Sara Poindexter, Hannah Pottey (Balkenbush), Mandy Russ and Tiffany Tandy.
“We have several runners who, if they develop, can be significant contributors to the team,” Elias said. “I can’t predict our top five or top seven because we have enough good athletes on the team that our top runners could change dramatically from week to week.”
Nevada welcomes nine newcomers to its team: Katie Avena (Las Vegas, Nev./Air Force); Jordan Burke (Auburn, Calif.); Tiffany Hutton (Las Vegas, Nev.); Kalyn Kenney (Temecula, Calif.); Kara LaPoint (Truckee, Calif.) Joelle Slater (Reno, Nev.); Gloria Sosa (Carson City, Nev.); Keri Trachok (Reno, Nev.) and Christy Works (Carson City, Nev.).
Burke earned four varsity letters in cross country and three varsity letters in track at Placer High School. She won a SEC Cross Country Championship in 2004 and was part of a team that captured the California State Division II Championships in cross country in 2004. Burke won an SEC Championship in cross country in 2006 and she led her track team to back-to-back SEC Championships in 2007 and 2008.
“Jordan had an excellent senior year in both cross country and track,” Elias said. “I see her as having a shot at playing a role for us early in her career.”
Kara LaPoint, who competed for the Nevada ski team last season, will enter her first season with the Pack cross country team. In addition, Hannah Pottey (Balkenbush) returns to the team after not running in 2007.
“These are two kids that have a lot of talent,” Elias said. “If any of our returners don’t being their A’ game these two will be players.”
Slater attended Reno High School and earned four varsity letters in both cross country and track and field. She led her track team to a pair State Championships (2007 and 2008). Individually she was a three-time State Champion in the 4x800m (2005, 2006 and 2007).
“Joelle had an excellent senior cross country season,” Elias said. “She could break into our top group if things go well for her.”
Nevada opens its season at home hosting the second annual Nevada Twilight Cross Country Classic on August 29. The Pack will travel to Sacramento State on Sept. 13 for the Hornet Jamboree and will compete at the Roy Griak Invite hosted by the University of Minnesota on September 27.
“We open at home with what has become a great early season meet,” Elias said. “Our first significant competition of the year will be the University of Minnesota meet. It’s the largest and most important meet we’ll have competed in since I’ve arrived at Nevada. It will be important for us to pick up points for an at-large consideration for the NCAA Championships later in the season.”
Nevada will run in the Doc Adams Invite hosted by UC Davis on October 4 and will travel to Santa Clara for the Santa Clara Invite on October 18. The 2008 WAC Championships will be hosted by New Mexico State on November 1 with the NCAA Mountain Regional Championships to be held November 15 in Fort Collins, Colo.
“We’re looking for a real tussle at the WAC meet it always is,” Elias said. “I like to think we can show up at Regionals and make more of a statement than we have in the past.”