by Matthew Dalby, sports information graduate assistant
MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. – The Georgia College women’s cross country squad enters 2011 with high hopes as they return eight runners from the 2010 squad. They look to carry the momentum from their ninth-place finish at the NCAA Southeast Regional into this season.
“This women’s squad is one of the deepest we’ve ever had,” said head coach Joe Samprone. “In cross country, the team is only as good as it’s fifth runner and we’ve got some very strong runners in that area.”
Karissa Ekstrom (Alpharetta, Ga.) ran in all eight of GC’s races last season, earning three top-10 finishes among her seven top-20 slots. Ekstrom posted a season-low 5K of 19:40, finishing ninth at the ASU Tri-Meet. This was also good for second all-time in GC history. She also placed 16th at the PBC Championships with a time of 25:44. Ekstrom should challenge for a top-two spot.
Emily Cary (Snellville, Ga.) returns after running in four of the team’s eight meets in 2010. She posted a season-low 5K of 20:51 at the ASU Tri-Meet, taking 24th overall. Cary also earned a spot on the PBC Silver Scholar list. Cary is in her second year with the team and is getting better with every practice.
Also returning for her senior season is Victoria Dobson (New Hamburg, Ontario), who suffered a season-ending injury in the first meet of the 2010 season. Dobson enjoyed an outstanding sophomore season, earning PBC All-Academic Third Team honors. Her best finish came in the Southern Challenge where she took 11th place with a 5K time of 21:50. Dobson has “responded well” after sitting out the entire 2010 season.
Courtney Timmerman (Dearing, Ga.) enjoyed a solid rookie campaign in a fifth or sixth slot in her first season for the Bobcats. After not running in 2009, Timmerman ran in four races last season posting an impressive 6K time of 27:34 at the PBC Championships in Evans, Ga.
Newcomer Lauren Davidson (Alpharetta, Ga.) looks to provide depth for the Bobcats in 2011, after joining the team in the fall. Davidson also competes on the Georgia College cheerleading team. Davidson is working to increase her distance.
Allison Lones (Kathleen, Ga.) provided a bright spot for GC in 2010, serving as the team’s top runner the final six races of the year. Her performance at the PBC Championships earned her All-PBC Second Team honors, as she took 12th with a time of 25:30. She also owns two school records, the first with a 5K time of 19:13 at the ASU Tri-Meet and the second with her 6K time of 24:00 at the NCAA Southeast Regional. Lones looks to anchor the 2011 squad despite having three years left to compete.
“Allison had an incredible year,” said Lones. “Once she got out in front of the pack, she tasted success and doesn’t want to give it up.”
The future looks bright as fellow classmate Andrea Byrnes (Snellville, Ga.) provided solid depth for GC in 2010. Running in all eight races as a true freshman, Byrnes earned one top-10 finish among her four top-20 races. Byrnes also earned PBC Bronze Scholar honors. “Andrea had a rock solid freshman year,” said Samprone. She’ll hang near the top and be a threat.”
A PBC Gold Scholar herself, Ashton Passino (Alpharetta, Ga.) posted a pair of top-20 finishes, despite running in just five races. Her season-low 5K of 20:37 at the ASU Tri-Meet earned her 19th place. Passino has shown some of the best improvement of any Bobcat this preseason and could jump into a top three or four role.
Madeline McCane (McDonough, Ga.) ran in four races as a freshman, taking sixth at the ASU Tri-Meet.
Helen Harris (Sandersville, Ga.) comes to the Bobcats from nearby Brentwood High, where she lettered in both cross country and track. She earned multiple honors in high school including 2010 Most Valuable Runner and Region Champion in cross country. Ellen Osment (Atlanta) graduated from St. Pius X where she lettered in cross country, swimming and track. Both of these two have the skills and now it comes down to training to shave off time.
Also looking to make an early impact is Rebecca Shane (Lilburn, Ga.), a graduate of Parkview High. She took home a number of awards in 2010 including Gwinnett County Runner of the Month, Gwinnett All-County and Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Rounding out the freshmen is Catie Tinker (Dallas, Ga.), who graduated from East Paulding High. During her tenure she lettered three years in cross country, serving as captain her final two. Tinker has been injured and may become more of a factor as the year goes on.
The Bobcats get the season started at home in the Bobcat Invitational Friday, Sept. 2 at 6:30 p.m.
The Georgia College Department of Athletics, two-time winners of the PBC Commissioner's Cup, sponsors 10 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, Bobcat Athletics prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the teams' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Sign up at www.twitter.com/BobcatSports and www.facebook.com/gcbobcats for up-to-the-minute reports, and visit www.GCBobcats.com for more information, and to nominate your favorite former Bobcats and Colonials to the GC Athletics Hall of Fame.