With all the changes over the last few years, nothing can faze the women’s cross country team. Not even the new distance course they will be running, which has changed from a 5K to a race.
With the incoming crop of freshman runners at only two, the Grizzlies will be experienced with one senior and seven juniors and possibly the top two runners in the league. OU boasts the Mid-Continent Conference Freshman of the Year Kristi Kiefer (So./ Sterling Heights/ Utica HS) and workhorse Jennifer Kunst (Jr./ Port Huron/ Port Huron HS).
"With the amount of miles that these two gi rls have put in over the summer, and the type of runners that they are, they could easily end up being the top two runners in the conference," head coach Paul Rice said.
The Golden Grizzlies are looking to improve on their sixth-place finish a year ago and are realistically aiming at one of the top four spots in the conference.
"I think a top four finish for the women is a pretty realistic goal," Rice said. "Even though we lost Jeanine, I think we have some excellent runners who will step in and do the job."
Leadership shouldn’t be a problem for Oakland in 2000. OU lost its top runner Jeanine Chura to graduation.
Senior Christina Colombe (Sr./ New Baltimore/ Anchor Bay HS) will team with junior Theresa Derwinski (Jr./ Farmington Hills/ Farmington HS) to take the helm and lead the Golden Grizzlies in their 2000 season escapade.
"Christina and Theresa stepping are our captains and I have complete faith that they will do the best job that they can in leading this team," Rice said.
Rice believes that this team has trained harder than last year in the summer and hopes to keep the injuries and illnesses to a minimum.
"My main concern is keeping everyone healthy," Rice said. "As a team, we have put in many miles this summer and are fired up and ready to go."
The Golden Grizzlies have a tough schedule ahead of them in 2000. OU is on the road for the majority of the season, starting off at the Motor City Classic (9/2). Oakland then travels to the University of Detroit (9/9) for the Tommy Titan Classic. OU then hits the road for Wisconsin-Parkside and the Midwest Collegiate race (9/16). The Golden Grizzlies round off the month by competing in the Rambler Invitational (9/30) hosted by Loyola Chicago.
To start off October, OU will travel across the state to Western Michigan to race in the Michigan Intercollegiates (10/6). The Grizzlies then travel to Western Illinois to cap off the season before regionals for the WIU Fall Festival (10/14) and the Mid-Continent Conference Championship (10/28).
The Women then compete for the last time of the season in the Great Lakes Regionals (11/11) which will be hosted by Eastern Michigan.
"We have a tough schedule, but the women have worked really hard for this season," Rice said. "I think that we have a chance to do well. It is all a matter of us staying healthy and keeping our focus."