WSU - Women's Cross Country Prepping For National Championship Run

WSU - Women's Cross Country Prepping For National Championship Run

Provided by WSU

DETROIT -- The Wayne State University women's cross country squad will be making its fifth appearance in the NCAA Championship meet this Saturday and first since the 2008 team finished ninth out of 24 schools.

This year's squad will send three seniors -- Lauren Gagnon (Waterford, Mich. / Waterford Mott), Kayla Smade (Columbus, Mich. / St. Clair) and Cara Smock (Wyandotte, Mich. / Roosevelt) -- along with three juniors -- sisters Brittany and Chelsea Johnson (Oxford, Mich.), and Kayla Balfour (St. Clair, Mich.) -- and one sophomore Leah Coonrod (Kalamazoo, Mich. / Gull Lake) to compete Saturday in Louisville, Ky. at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park with the women's 6k race beginning at 12:15 p.m. The field has increased to 32 teams with the Warriors ranked ninth in the nation in the final pre-championship meet poll by the USTFCCCA.

"I am very proud of this group," stated 18th-year head coach Rick Cummins. "They have learned how to train and race together. They have also learned how to be a team together. There is great camaraderie among this group. It doesn't matter what our order is they all support each other and are happy for a quality team result. That is so rewarding as a coach - it doesn't happen often in this sport.

"It feels great to be back at Nationals with a team," added Cummins. "Amanda Brewer was tremendous two years ago and her success has helped this group believe in each other and the process. This team is very good. Easily the deepest team we have ever had at WSU. Rachelle Malette and Shelly Vickery were big time runners and they were good front runners. This group is very close in terms of times. Have a good day and you will be our No. 1; bring your B game and you are likely to be No. 4.

"I have been telling people that it is the best women's team that we have ever had (at WSU)," commented Cummins. "We have had some tremendous teams and this is no disrespect to any of the four previous NCAA qualifying teams. This team is really good No. 2-6 right now. And Leah Coonrod is figuring this out. She is going to be good - I think she is going to surprise people in Louisville. She is ready. We are ready.

"This group does an excellent job of balancing their drive to succeed with maintaining perspective. They work hard, they live right, they listen, they are extremely coachable (my job is easy in that regard), and they care about each other - but they don't obsess and get worked up like many do. They are very relaxed - until the gun goes off.

"I am very lucky to get to work with this group. I am having a great time," concluded Cummins.

Wayne State's previous four appearances in the NCAA National Championship meet were in 2002 (9th), 2003 (T-16th), 2007 (14th) and 2008 (12th).