Golden Grizzlies Reach Goals and Prepare for Future Success

The Oakland University men’s and women’s cross country teams succeeded with a passion that was indescribable. For the men, a different hero led his team to the finish line while the women were led by its leaders that consistently place them on the top tier in races. Each team showed poise and composure but most importantly stayed focused on its goal to climb to the top of the Mid-Continent Conference. Each race served its purpose as a steppingstone to reach the highest point of success. Every individual rose to the occasion for the future good of its team concept. Players pushed each other on a daily basis and trained to be their best. They knew they were as strong as their weakest link. The Mid-Con race was the throne they hoped to overtake but both teams finished behind hosting Southern Utah. The finish found Oakland in the regionals where the Golden Grizzlies discovered the road had more bumps than was first anticipated.

Last year, the Southern Utah men posted the lowest team score in Mid-Con Cross Country Championship history (22), as well as the widest victory margin (46) since the league began sponsoring the sport in 1982. The top five Thunderbird finishers in last year's championship meet earned all-conference honors, with four (including 2000 Mid-Con Cross Country Athlete of the Year Curtis Moore) taking home first-team All Mid-Con accolades. However, Southern Utah returns none of those top five performers, and only one letterman overall, from last year's squad. The Thunderbirds received five first-place votes in the poll.

UMKC and Valparaiso tied for second in the menıs preseason poll, with UMKC receiving one first-place tally and Valparaiso garnering two. UMKC finished a distant second to Southern Utah in last yearıs championship, and the Kangaroos expect to return three all-conference performers from last season's team. Valparaiso finished fourth last season in the Mid-Con Championship, and the Crusaders also are looking for three all-conference honorees to return this year.

Oakland had been predicted to finish fourth this season, while Western Illinois, Oral Roberts, IUPUI and Chicago State round out the rest of the league's field.

Oakland was tabbed to finish second in the preseason poll, mostly due to the return of 2000 Mid-Con Athlete of the Year Kristie Kieffer, who won the individual title at the 2000 Mid-Con Cross Country Championship a year after earning Newcomer of the Year honors. The Golden Grizzlies picked up two first-place votes in the preseason poll.

After Southern Utah and Oakland, Mid-Con coaches predict that the Mid-Con meet will be closely contested, with four teams finishing within three points of each other in the poll. UMKC and Valparaiso were tabbed to tie for third in 2001, while Oral Roberts was selected fifth and Western Illinois, which picked up a first-place vote, was tabbed sixth. IUPUI (which returns 2000 Mid-Con Newcomer of the Year Lyndsey Emerson) and Chicago State rounded out the poll.

The Oakland University men's and women's cross country teams opened the season Saturday morning, September 1, by hosting the Second Annual Motor City Classic.  The OU women tied Wayne State University for first place (29 points) and the University of Detroit finished third with 76 points. The Golden Grizzly men finished second place with 29 points behind Wayne State's 26 and Detroit finished third with 85.  OU's Kieffer, the 2000 Mid-Continent Conference Runner of the Year, won the individual 5K title in 18:38.0. Freshman Melissa Nasers followed in second place (19:21.0) and Jennifer Kunst finished third. Rounding off the top 10 for the Golden Grizzlies was senior Theresa Derwinski in 10th place (20:51.0).  Other OU runners were Kara Coraci (15th/21:42.0), Colleen Fradette (21st/22:42.0), Andrea Sutter (22nd/22:52.0), Tara Kurkowski (26th/23:31.0), Stephanie Colombe (29th/23:53.0), Sarah Kane (33rd/25:31.0) and Kristin Martin (35th/26:25.0).  The Golden Grizzlies placed five runners in the top 10 in the men's four-mile race. Junior transfer Jason Bruscha finished second overall in 21:03.0, while sophomore Brandon Fisk (21:16.0), freshmen John Cook (21:23.0) and Adam Frezza (21:31.0) finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. Senior Kurt Brinker rounded off the scoring runners for OU in ninth place (21:41.0).  Other OU runners were Mike Withee (11th/21:48.0), Ryan Bissell (12th/21:48.0), David Renne (16th/22:10.0), Paul Kulisek (17th/22:11.0), Gabe Wordell (21st/22:31.0), Kevin Donovan (22nd/22:34.0), Matt Nistor (23rd/22:37.0), Pat Klein (26th/23:03.0), Rob Camilleri (28th/23:17.0), Luke Williams (32nd/23:40.0) and Adam Feinstein (35th/24:41.0).

The Oakland University women's cross country team, led by Kieffer, won the 15th Annual Running Fit-Detroit Mercy Invitational Saturday, September 8 in Northville, Michigan, while the OU men's team finished third.  The women's team was led by 2000 Mid-Continent Conference Athlete of the year Kieffer as she crossed the finish line in 18:14, seven seconds ahead of the second-place runner in the 5,000-meter race. OU's Nasers finished fourth in 18:47 and Kunst rounded off Oakland's top 10 runners in seventh (19:12).  Oakland scored 42 points and was followed by Eastern Michigan with 43, Detroit with 56 and Canisius with 59.  The OU men finished third with 52 points behind Eastern Michigan (38) and Central Michigan (47), and in front of Canisius (109) and Detroit (112).  Bruscha was OU's top finisher as he crossed the line tied for 11th place with a time of 21:03. Rounding off the top three runners for OU in the four-mile race were Frezza (14th/21:11) and  Fisk (15th/21:12).

In the next event,the Oakland University men's and women's cross country teams competed Saturday afternoon at the Lakefront Invitational in Chicago, Illinois. The meet is hosted by Loyola University - Chicago. The men's race was an 8K, while the women ran a 6K race.   The OU men finished sixth overall out of 38 teams with 188 points. Winning the men's title was the University of Kentucky with 88 points and the other four teams in front of the Golden Grizzly men were Windsor (117), Loyola Chicago (147), Malone College (151) and DePaul University (170).  The Golden Grizzly men were led by junior Bruscha  who finished 20th overall out of 378 runners in 25:39. Senior Brinker followed for OU in 39th place (26:01) and sophomore Fisk came across in 42nd place (26:08).  Freshmen John Cook (St. Clair/St. Clair HS) and Paul Kulisek (Wonder Lake, IL/Woodstock HS) rounded off the top five for Oakland in 43rd and 49th places, respectively. Cook ran the 8K in 26:09 and Kulisek recorded a 26:20.  The remaining Oakland runners finished as follows ... freshman Frezza  51st/26:21, junior Mike Withee (Clawson/Clawson HS) 57th/26:23, senior Kevin Donovan (Sterling Heights/Stevenson HS) 63rd/26:36, freshman Pat Klein (Commerce Twp./White Lake HS) 69th/26:36, sophomore Luke Williams (Wayland/Hopkins HS) 76th/26:43, junior Gabe Wordell (Rochester/Bethesda Christian HS) 112th/27:07, junior Ryan Bissell (Vassar/Vassar HS) 132nd/27:22 and freshman Matt Nistor (Sterling Heights/Stevenson HS) 159th/27:48.

The Oakland women finished seventh overall out of 41 teams with 240 points. Winning the women's title was Grand Valley State University with 79 points and the other five teams in front of the Golden Grizzly women were Loyola Chicago (113), Marshall (141), Georgia State (153), Southeast Missouri State (186) and DePaul University (206).  The Golden Grizzlies were led by  Kieffer who finished second overall out of 399 runners in 17:52. Nasers followed for OU in 24th place (18:52) and Kunst came across the finish line in 31st place (19:02).  Derwinski and Harenski rounded off the top five for Oakland in 72nd and 147th places, respectively. Derwinski ran the 6K in 19:38 and Harenski recorded a 20:28.  The remaining Oakland runners finished as follows ... freshman Sarah Kane (Sterling Heights/Sterling Heights HS) 154th/20:34, freshman Kara Coraci (Macomb/Utica Eisenhower HS) 167th/20:41, junior Stephanie Colombe (New Baltimore/Anchor Bay HS) 197th/21:10, freshman Andrea Sutter (Sterling Heights/Stevenson HS) 217th/21:31, freshman Tara Kurkowski (White Lake/Lakeland HS) 243rd/21:50 and sophomore Kristin Martin (Sterling Heights/Stevenson HS) 347th/24:43.

The Oakland University men's and women's cross country teams both finished fourth Friday, October 5 at the 2001 Notre Dame Cross Country Invitational. The men's and women's team ran in the Notre Dame Gold race and Kieffer and Bruscha led the way for the Golden Grizzlies.  The OU men finished fourth behind Notre Dame ‘B', North Central College and Windsor, and in front of 14 schools including intrastate foes Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan.  Leading the way for the Golden Grizzlies in the 8K race was junior Bruscha who finished 15th overall in a time of 25:31. Freshman Cook followed in 24th place crossing the finish line in 25:42. Brinker , Frezza and Kulisek  rounded off the top five runners for Oakland. Brinker finished 39th (25:54), while Frezza claimed 43rd place (25:59) and Kulisek finished 50th overall (26:05).  Also running the Notre Dame Gold men's race for Oakland were sophomore Brandon Fisk (Shelby Twp./Utica Eisenhower HS) 60th/26:10, senior Kevin Donovan (Sterling Heights/Stevenson HS) 64th/26:16, freshman Pat Klein (Commerce Twp./White Lake Lakewood HS) 82nd/26:37 and Withee 89th/26:52.   The Golden Grizzly women finished fourth behind Calvin College, Hillsdale College and Valparaiso, and in front of 10 schools including Notre Dame ‘B', Central Michigan and Bowling Green.  Junior Kieffer (Sterling Heights/Utica HS) led the way for OU, as she has all season long. Kieffer finished second overall in the 5K race with a time of 17:55. Following closely behind Kieffer was Nasers who crossed the finish line in 11th place in a time of 18:38. Kunst and Derwinski and freshman Kane rounded off the top five for Oakland. Kunst finished 26th (19:07), while Derwinski claimed 47th (19:38) and Kane finished 72nd (20:12) overall.  Other runners in the Notre Dame Gold women's race for OU were freshman Kara Coraci (Macomb/Utica Eisenhower HS) 75th/20:17, Colombe 76th/20:19, Harenski 81st/20:28 and freshman Andrea Sutter (Sterling Heights/Stevenson HS) 104th/21:18.

The Golden Grizzly men's and women's cross country teams ran in the 2001 NCAA Pre-Meet on the campus of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina on Saturday, October 13. The women's team competed in the silver race and finished 33rd out of 37 teams, while the men's team ran in the gold race and finished 28th out of 36 teams.  The NCAA Pre-Meet is a race that is run on the NCAA Championship course each year and this year Furman University is hosting the NCAA Championships in men's and women's cross country. Over 100 schools in both men's and women's cross country competed in the race on Saturday, October 13 in six seperate races.  The women's team ran the Silver Race (6K), while the men's team ran the Gold Race (10K) in Saturday's competition.  Stanford won the women's silver race with 72 points, while Brigham Young finished second (74) and North Carolina State claimed third (142). The Golden Grizzlies finished 33rd with 830 points.    Leading the pack for the seventh time this season was junior Kieffer as she finished 97th out of 246 runners in 22:52. Nasers followed in 123rd (23:12) and Kunst cross the finish line in 177th place (23:57). Derwinski and Kane rounded off the OU scorers in 199th and 234th places, respectively. Derwinski ran the 6K race in 24:31, while Kane crossed the finish line in 25:46.  Also running for the Golden Grizzlies were Coraci, who finished 237th (25:53), and Colombe who finished 246th (27:13).

Colorado won the men's gold race with 62 points, while Notre Dame finished second (172) and the Air Force Academy claimed third (184). The Golden Grizzlies finished 28th with 706 points.  Leading the way for the Golden Grizzly men's team was Bruscha who finished 101st overall out of 242 runners in a time of 25:54. Cook followed in 130th place (26:07) and freshmen Frezza and  Kulisek finished in a tie for 154th place as both crossed the finish line in 26:21. Brinker rounded off the top five for OU in 166th place (26:29).   Also running the 10K race for the men's team were Fisk in 195th (26:59) and sophomore Williams in 201st place (27:05).

The Southern Utah menıs and womenıs cross country teams were both predicted to continue their dominance in the Mid-Continent Conference at the beginning of the season, with both being the top choice in the preseason coaches poll. Those prognosticators turned out to be right on target, as both teams captured their respective conference championships on Saturday afternoon October 27, 2001 at Cedar Ridge Golf Course in Cedar City, Utah. The men captured their fifth crown in as many years since joining the league, while the women garnered their fourth title in a row. Oakland and IUPUI finished second and third, respectively, in both the menıs and womenıs races.

Oakland head coach Paul Rice was named as the Mid-Con Menıs Cross Country Coach of the Year, snapping a four-year run by Southern Utah head coach Eric Houle. Bruscha nabbed first team honors on the Mid-Con team.  Kieffer (22:39.90) finished second in the Mid-Con women’s race earning her first-team All Mid-Con honors for the third time.

The Oakland University men's and women's cross country teams finished the 2001 seasons competing at the Great Lakes Regional in Terre Haute, Indiana. The men's team finished 17th out of 31 teams, while the women finished 25th out of 31 teams.  The OU men's team was led by Kulisek who finished 63rd, four seconds in front of teammate Bruscha in 64th place. Kulisek ran the 10K race in 32:39.2, while Bruscha crossed the finish line in 32:43.3. Cook finished 109th in a time of 33:25.6, while sophomores Williams and Fisk rounded off OU's scoring five in 115th and 123rd places, respectively. Williams finished in 33:38.0, while Fisk ran the race in 33:46.3. Brinker finished 142nd overall in 34:13.9.

The Golden Grizzly women were led by Kieffer who finished 66th in 22:46.4. Senior Kunst  followed Kieffer in the 6K race finishing 96th in 23:20.1. Nasers, Derwinski and Kane rounded off OU's scoring five in 152nd, 156th and 158th places, respectively. Nasers ran the race in 24:19.8, while Derwinski ran a 24:21.2 and Kane crossed the finish line in 24:29.5. Harenski and Coraci also ran for the Golden Grizzlies finishing 170th and 174th places, respectively. Harenski ran the 6K in 24:48.7, while Coraci crossed the finish line in 25:02.6.

Oakland, however, didn’t finish as high as they had hoped in the regionals but every year the Golden Grizzlies inch a little closer to the promise land. Rice continues to recruit athletes that possess championship traits while the athletes find the strength to overcome injuries and hardships. Oakland knows what it will take them next year to get farther in the NCAA meet and with the likes of the work ethic they possess they are sure to make a strong showing.

Golden Grizzlies Photo Galleries