Following a disappointing performance in last year’s Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championships the Slippery Rock University women’s cross-country team is looking for improvement in the 2015 season.
SRU head coach John Papa will be entering his 29th year leading the team and expects a lot out of his athletes.
“We expect to work hard and continue to improve as the season progresses,” Papa said. “We would like to improve on our fifth place finish in last year’s PSAC championship.”
The Rock had top five team finishes in all four of the regular season meets a year ago, before finishing fifth at the PSAC Championships and seventh at the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championships.
Returning for her senior season will be last year’s top runner for SRU, Jenny Picot. Picot finished 10th overall at the PSAC Championships and 18th overall at the regional competition, earning both all-conference and all-region honors.
The Rock will be without fellow all-region and all-conference athlete Janine Powis who graduated last spring. Powis was consistently the second best runner for the green and white, boasting a 19th place finish at the PSAC championship and a 24th place finish at the Regional Championships.
Replacing one of the top runners in the conference will not be easy, Papa said, but he believes that the Rock has added someone to the team that is up to the task.
“We have a transfer, Leah Anne Wirfel, from Highpoint University that looks to make a big impact on the team,” Papa said. “She will be contending for our number one spot.”
Wirfel will be competing as a junior at SRU after performing well at High Point University in 2014.
Wirfel finished in 17th place in HPU’s conference championships and in 128th place at their Regional competition before transferring.
Other runners looking to contribute this year are senior Brittany Fagan and junior Kaylee Haberkam, who scored in all five races last season.
Slippery Rock will open this season by traveling to Anchorage and competing against the University of Alaska on Aug. 27.
The team is going to Alaska for the first time since 2011 where they will train, hike, sightsee and compete in an exhibition race against the University of Alaska’s team.
Papa says that he and his team are excited for the opportunity to travel and he thinks the experience his team gains in Alaska will benefit them as they get deeper into the season.
The Rock will continue their season by traveling to Edinboro University to compete in the Doug Watts Distance Gala on Sept. 5 before returning home to host the SRU Invitational on Sept. 18.
SRU will then compete at the Lock Haven Invitational on Sept. 26 at Lock Haven University.
The Green and White will end the regular season at home in the Mack Cooper Invitational on Oct. 10.
In addition to the two regular season races, SRU will also be hosting this year’s PSAC Championships.
The Rock will continue to use the Cooper’s Lake Campground as its home course.