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January 10, 2012

2012 Season - Women's Track & Field ready for good year

Junior Sarahbeth Jones is coming off a tremendous cross country season where she was the Vikings' MVP and she will be a force in the middle distance events in 2012.

It will come as no surprise to fans of Augustana track and field that women's veteran head coach Fred Whiteside believes his program is poised for another successful year. Whiteside, who is entering his 25th year as the Vikings' head coach after a stand out career of his own as an Augustana runner, is excited about the potential of a team that combines veteran leadership with tremendous freshmen talent.

"We have a superb group of upperclassmen who contributed heavily to our success last year, and we also have a very strong freshman class that is ready to step in and also fill some gaps left by the graduated seniors," Whiteside said. Whiteside is also excited about the leadership provided by new captains Morgan Gale (Oregon HS, Oregon, Ill.), Amber Gruber (Rolling Meadows HS, Arlington Heights, Ill.), and Melissa Lephamer (Plainfield South HS, Plainfield, Ill.).

Whiteside has enjoyed tremendous success during his tenure with the Vikings, leading the team to 12 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) titles and seven runner-up finishes. Just three years ago Augustana finished the season ranked 12th in NCAA Division III, according to the U.S. Track & Field/ Cross Country Coaches Association. A year ago, the Vikings finished 19th in the Association's rankings.

Last year, Whiteside's team placed fourth in the indoor and fifth in the outdoor CCIW conference meets. A roster that numbers 89 athletes with over 35 returning letter winners provides the reason for his optimistic approach to the season.

SPRINTS - Senior captain Morgan Gale (Oregon HS, Oregon, Ill.) has the best time in both 100 and 200 of the returning sprinters, but will be pushed by juniors Valerie Bach (Palatine HS, Palatine, Ill.) and Katie Dinkel (Maharishi, Fairfield, Iowa). Senior Catherine Foreman (St. Joseph HS, St. Joseph, Ill.) will also factor into the sprints. The top returner in the 400 is junior Kirstillyn Pohlman (Zion Benton HS, Winthrop Harbor, Ill.), and she will be joined by a superb freshman class of sprinters in Megan Funke (Limestone HS, Mapleton, Ill.), Emily Lutton (Elkhorn HS, Omaha, Neb.) and Krista McCurrie (Stagg HS, Palos Park, Ill.).

HURDLES - Sophomore Kierra Smith (Creston HS, Creston, Ill.) was an all-conference performer in both the 100 and 400 meter hurdles, and will lead the team in these events. She will be joined by fellow sophomores Karly Losch (Pittsfield HS, Pittsfield, Ill.), Johanna Schnitzler (Downers Grove South, Woodridge, Ill.), and Julia Popp (Boylan Catholic HS, Belvidere, Ill.), who all were solid contributors a year ago.

MIDDLE DISTANCE - Despite the loss of national meet qualifier Hannah Hottle, the Vikings appear to have reloaded going into the 2012 season. Junior Sarahbeth Jones (Warren Township HS, Wadsworth, Ill.) is coming off an outstanding cross country season and returns to track as a two-time all-CCIW performer in the 800. She is also the leading returner in the 1,500 meters. Jones will be joined by top seniors Angela Pisani (York HS, Elmhurst, Ill.) and Melissa Lephamer (Plainfield South HS, Plainfield, Ill.). Junior Jen Prazak (Naperville North HS, Naperville, Ill.) will provide depth in the events, along with sophomores Kelsey Moon (Mundelein HS, Wauconda, Ill.) and Katie Kornaus (Portage HS, Portage, Wis.). Whiteside also thinks that freshmen Becca Sund (Palatine HS, Palatine, Ill.), Kris Bowen (Kaneland HS, Elburn, Ill.), Jessica Bacon (Rock Island HS, Rock Island, Ill.), and Stephanie Burbidge (Palatine HS, Palatine, Ill.) might be key contributors in the middle distance events.

DISTANCE - Junior Theresa Coverick (Stagg HS, Palos Park, Ill.) was the top Augustana performer in both the 5,000 and 10,000 last year and she leads the distance crew. Senior Sarah Johnson (Grayslake North, Lake Villa, Ill.) returns as both a key member of the 5000 meter and steeplechase crew. Juniors Annie Heifner (Oregon HS, Oregon, Wis.) and Tara Bistry (Joliet Catholic, Joliet, Ill.) are also key returners, with Heifner returning with the school record in the 2,000 meter steeple chase. Sophomores Kristen Whiteside (Zion Benton, Winthrop Harbor, Ill.) and Emma Grandgeorge (Sycamore HS, Sycamore, Ill.) have also experience success in the distance events.

THROWS - The throws appear to be a strong area for the Vikings in 2011, with a strong list of returning letter winners. Senior Amber Gruber (Rolling Meadows HS, Arlington Heights, Ill.) is a two time CCIW all-conference performer in the hammer, and leads the throwing crew. She also contributes in the shot and discus. Gruber is joined by a fellow All-Conference hammer thrower, sophomore Liana Beauchamp (Genoa-Kingston HS, Genoa, Ill.) Junior Jordan Mauerman (Albany HS, Albany, Wis.) returns as the top javelin thrower, in which she was a CCIW finalist last year. She will be joined in the event by junior Devon White (Indian Creek HS, DeKalb, Ill.), and Catherine Foreman (St. Joseph HS, St. Joseph, Ill.). Junior Bethany Siwek (Woodstock HS, Woodstock, Ill.) adds depth in the hammer, discus and shot.

JUMPS - Sophomore Johanna Schnitzler (Downers Grove South, Woodridge, Ill.) is the top returner in both the long and high jump. She will be joined in the long by returners Samantha Bazely (Alleman HS, Coal Valley, Ill.) and Jordan Mauerman (Albany HS, Albany, Wis.). Bazely is the top triple jump returnee, an event in which she was an all-conference performer in a year ago. The pole vault returns two all-conference athletes in sophomore Taelar Hillyer (Alleman HS, Bettendorf, Iowa) and Taylor Tjardes (Gibson City/Melvin/Sibley HS, Gibson City, Ill.).

HEPTATHLON - Schnitzler was an all-conference performer a year ago, and will be joined by fellow sophomore Julia Popp in the event.