08/06/2014 – After a solid summer of training, the women's cross country team is anxiously awaiting the start of the 2014 season. The Saints, who are coming off a third place finish in the WHAC, seemed poised and determined and have their sights set on regaining the WHAC crown and returning to the NAIA National Championships as a team. Aquinas returns everyone from last year's team with the exception of graduated seniors, Kelsey Carpenter and Jackie Katt. A total of 33 student-athletes will make up the roster with a dozen being first time members of the Cross Country team.
A pair of All-WHAC performers from the 2013 season will look to spearhead the Saints attack in 2014. Catie Rietsema and Carley Woolcott will look to provide a one-two punch up front for the Saints. Emily Hazelbach, who was named Honorable Mention All-WHAC in 2013, will look to solidify the top five during her senior season. A quartet of upperclassman with varsity experience will look to add depth and push the top group and provide stability for the Saints in 2014. Sydney Anderson, Kathy Middaugh, Crysta Pagenelli and Rachael Steil will add experience, leadership and a competitiveness that will be essential for this team to maximize its efforts. The addition of twelve new team members makes this women's squad the largest in school history. A combination of talent, grit and personality define this group of "new Saints" with many having the ability to be contributors from day one. Coach Woj said, "We have the potential to be a very good team this year. I believe the set back of not qualifying for nationals as a team last year has motivated this group. The work ethic is there and I believe we have not only the biggest, but also the most talented team we have ever had. I am excited to see how things come together for the ladies this fall."
The coaching staff remains intact from last season plus one. Coach Wojciakowski will look to Paige Boldt and Nick Thelen to assistant the two squads in 2014. Coach Woj states, "Boldt was the perfect choice when I brought her aboard last fall. She adds a dimension and wisdom to the staff that has been long overdue. If they had an award for "Assistant Coach of the Year" in the conference, she would have won hands down." Wojciakowski also comments, "The addition of Nick Thelen (NT) as a graduate assistant is also going to help the program immensely. Nick, an Aquinas College alum, knows the system and understands the tradition we are trying to uphold. I picture Nick playing a key role in practice management and recruiting."
The team will kickoff their competitive season at the Knight Invitational on September 13th at the Gainey Complex in Grand Rapids. The squad will then travel to South Bend to compete in the National Catholic Invitational hosted by Notre Dame. The Saints will return to action in October with dates in Lansing and Mishawaka, Indiana before a taste of the national course in Kansas in mid-October. The Saints will then look for some home cooking as they host the NAIA Great Lakes Challenge in late October. Aquinas will conclude their season with the WHAC Championships at Riverside Park and the NAIA Championships in Lawrence, Kansas.