After finishing first this past weekend at the George Dales Invitational in Three Rivers, Mich., the Eastern Michigan University women’s cross country team is poised to make a competitive run at the MAC championships this year. Last year, it finished sixth overall.
In the preseason polls for the Mid-American Conference championship, the coaches predicted EMU to finish fifth. Coach Sue Parks says she isn’t surprised.
“That is around where we finished last year,” Parks said. “We’d like to move up from that. Our goal is to be atop the conference. ”
Parks is depending on her two new captains, senior Lauren Quaintance and junior Natalie Webb, to lead the young squad.
“Lauren and Natalie have been around the program for a couple of years now,” Parks said. “They both lead in different ways. Lauren is more of a vocal leader, and Natalie likes to lead by example through her hard work and competiveness.”
The Eagles are going to need that upperclassmen leadership since the team is full of sophomores.
“We are a young team,” Parks said. “Most have been around big meets, so they shouldn’t be surprised at the level of competition. I am not worried. We have good senior leadership.”
“We’re looking to move up in the MAC,” Quaintance said. “Our team goal is to reach top three in the conference. Our team is looking a lot stronger this year. We’re looking to improve a lot from last year.”
One runner who has been keeping the team optimistic about improving in the MAC is sophomore Courtney Calka.
“She is a strong competitor with a lot of confidence,” Quaintance said. “She is not afraid; she’s really tough.”
Parks said, “She’s very good. Anytime you finish atop like she did her freshman year, it’s always good. She is at that level from the get go.”
Calka finished first in each of the two competitions. Last season Calka led the Eagles in every race, finishing sixth at the MAC championships. She earned first-team all-MAC honors, all-region honors and was a U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association all-academic honoree in her first collegiate career.
The Eagles’ next competition at 11 a.m. on Oct. 2 at the Adidas Invitational in Madison, Wis. The MAC championship is Oct. 30 in Kalamazoo.