FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The 2010 edition of the NAU women's cross country team will feature a new look from years past. The team will have to replace the results of graduated seniors Veronica Pohl, a two-time All-American, and Nell Rojas.
The Lumberjacks do return experience with Kortnee Burton, Haley Lawrence and Lisette Michaels, who are back for their third years.
"We lost some seniors, but we have some upperclassmen with Kortnee, Haley and Lisette who have been here three years," Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins said.
Burton, a native of Brea, Calif., enjoyed a breakout sophomore season in which she finished second on the team in four out-of-five races. She earned her first All-Region medal with a 23 rd-place finish at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships as well as clinching a spot on the All-Big Sky team.
Finishing right next to Burton during the season was Lawrence. She joined Burton on the podium at the Big Sky Cross Country Championships to claim her first career All-Big Sky honor with a sixth-place finish. Lawrence also recorded two top-10 finishes to open the year at the George Kyte Classic (9th) and Aztec Invite (5th).
Michaels returns this season having appeared in four races for the Lumberjacks, but had a breakout track season in 2010 and looks to carry over that moment into the fall. She appeared at both Big Sky Championships for the team, and scored her first career point with an eighth-place finish in the 5,000-meter run at the outdoor conference championships.
"It was really encouraging to see Lisette's track season last year," Heins said. "It really fired her up and I think with those three girls if they are running well together then we can defend our Big Sky Cross Country title and go to the regional meet and try to place as high or higher then we did last year."
As for the next four runners to round out the top seven, Heins notes that a lot of women will need to step up due to how wide open the last spots are.
The cross country team will welcome a new graduate assistant for this first time in three years as Mo Huber will step in for the departed Seth Watkins. Huber comes to Flagstaff after competing in cross country and track and field for four years at the University of Washington.
Heins is excited for her role with the team and believes she will be a big asset to the women's squad.
"Whenever you have a male coach in charge of both programs, it is always beneficial to have a female on staff, especially one with the credentials she has," Heins said. "She is going to be able to help out a lot with making sure the women's team has someone to communicate with and be able to resolve any issues that arise."
Her ability to recruit top-notch talent to Flagstaff will also be something Heins is looking forward to having as he aims to bring in a solid class this year.
"She will also be doing a great job with recruiting that women's side since we want to have a top recruiting class this year with all the people that we have lost over the past two seasons," Heins said.
With the solid efforts from the upperclassmen, and a few surprises from some newcomers, the Lumberjacks should be right there at the end of the season defending their Big Sky Title for the fourth-straight year.