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December 19, 2012

Hopes high once again in women's track & field

Senior Sarahbeth Jones was responsible for five school records and won two individual College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin titles in 2012. She also placed ninth in the 5000 meter run at the NCAA Division III national meet.

Coming off a season that saw a total of eight school records broken during the 2011 indoor and outdoor campaigns, it is understandable that veteran head coach Fred Whiteside is optimistic. Whiteside, who is entering his 26th year as the Vikings' head coach after a standout career of his own as an Augustana runner, is excited about the potential and depth of a team that combines veteran leadership, as well as an influx young talent.

"Our upperclassmen contributed greatly to our success last year, and we also have a very impressive group of underclassmen, many of who performed well last year, and many more who are expected to step up this year," Whiteside said. Whiteside believes the leadership provided by new captains Samantha Bazely (Alleman HS, Coal Valley, Ill.), Annie Heifner (Oregon HS, Oregon, Wis.), Sarahbeth Jones (Warren Township, Wadsworth, Ill.), Jen Prazak (Naperville North HS, Naperville, Ill.), and Taylor Tjardes (Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley HS, Gibson City, Ill.) will be instrumental for the Vikings this season

Whiteside has enjoyed tremendous success during his tenure with the Augustana, leading the team to 12 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) titles and seven runner-up finishes. In 2007, the Vikings finished the season ranked 10th in NCAA Division III, according to the U.S. Track & Field/ Cross Country Coaches Association. A year ago, the Vikings finished 21st in the Association's rankings.

Last year, Whiteside's team placed sixth in both the indoor and outdoor CCIW conference meets. This year's roster is made up of 72 athletes, 39 of which are returning letter winners. That, coupled with the return of every one of the record setting performers from last season, is the reason for the high hopes heading into the 2012-13 season.

SPRINTS - Sophomores Astin Moravek (Riverside-Brookfield HS, Riverside, Ill.) and Elise Davis (Columbine HS, Centennial, Colo.) are the top two returners in the 100. Senior Katie Dinkel (Maharishi HS, Fairfield, Iowa) will also compete in the 100. Sophomore Krista McCurrie (Amos Alonzo Stagg HS, Palos Park, Ill.) will handle the 200 as she has fastest returning time. Senior captain Jen Prazak (Naperville North HS, Naperville, Ill.) and McCurrie will lead the 400 runners. The return of sophomore Emily Lutton (Elkhorn HS, Omaha, Neb.) from injury will be a welcome addition to the 400 meter group. A strong group of freshmen including Rachel Akmakjian (Poudre HS, Fort Collins, Colo.), Somer Druszkowski (Lincoln Way Central HS, Manhattan, Ill.), Madeline Gannon (Marist HS, Orland Park, Ill.), Chanel LaVigne (Rauner College Prep, Chicago, Ill.), Brittany Mays (Northwest Secondary HS, Milwaukee, Wis.), Stephanie Sorrentino (York HS, Elmhurst, Ill.), and Antwanette Ysaguirre (Joliet Catholic HS, Bolingbrook, Ill.) are expected to be competitive right away.

HURDLES - Junior Kierra Smith (Creston HS, Creston, Ill.), an all-conference performer in both the 100 and 400 meter hurdles, will lead the team in these events. She holds the Augustana school record in the 400 meter hurdles and was a member of the record setting distance medley relays. Freshmen Rachel Auton (Arrowhead Union HS, Hartland, Wis.), Ashley Jensen-Anderson (Rock Island HS, Rock Island, Ill.), and Annie Martines (St. Charles East HS, St. Charles, Ill.) will step in to help provide depth to the hurdle events.

MIDDLE DISTANCE - Sophomore Jessica Bacon (Rock Island HS, Rock Island, Ill.), an all-conference performer in the 1,500 and 800, and junior Kate Benge (Pleasant Valley HS, Bettendorf, Iowa), an all-conference performer in the 800, will be expected to lead the middle distance group. Both were members of the school record setting distance medley relay teams, in addition to the record setting 4x1600 meter relay team. They will be joined by seniors Kirstillyn Pohlman (Zion Benton HS, Winthrop Harbor, Ill.) and Prazak. Junior Kelsey Moon (Mundelein HS, Wauconda, Ill.) will provide depth in the events, along with sophomore Lorraine Stamberger (La Moille HS, La Moille, Ill.). Whiteside also thinks that freshmen Katie Hoeper (Davenport West HS, Blue Grass, Iowa.), Lia O'Connor (St. Francis College Prep, Naperville, Ill.), Helen Offerman (Rosary HS, Oswego, Ill.), Callie Peterson (Mound Westonka HS, Minnestrista, Minn.), Jeneen Schier (Oregon HS, Oregon, Ill.), and Anna Walsh (Mahtomedi HS, Mahtomedi, Minn.) might be key contributors in the middle distance events.

DISTANCE - Senior captain Sarahbeth Jones (Warren Township HS, Wadsworth, Ill.) is coming off one of the best seasons ever by an Augustana runner. She finished ninth in the 5,000 at the NCAA Division III Outdoor National Championships last spring. She had a hand in five of the school records set last year, including the 5,000 which was the longest standing school record. In addition, she was a two-time conference champion (3,000 meter indoors and 5,000 meter outdoors). She was the top Augustana performer in both the 1500, 3,000, and 5,000 last year and she will be expected to lead the distance crew. Senior Tara Bistry (Joliet Catholic HS, Joliet, Ill.) was an all-conference performer in the 10,000 a year ago and will be looked upon to provide leadership in this group as well. The distance squad will receive a boost with the return of junior Kristyn Barton (York HS, Elmhurst, Ill.) and sophomore Becca Sund (Palatine HS, Palatine, Ill.). Both Barton and Sund missed last season due to injury, but both have shown the capability to be key contributors, as seen by their all-conference performances in cross country in 2011. Sophomore Lizzie Lundine (Willowbrook HS, Villa Park, Ill.), who had the top time in the 10,000 a year ago, is expected to add depth to the distance group as are Amanda Rodriguez (Mahomet-Seymour HS, Mahomet, Ill.), Stephanie Burbidge (Palatine, HS, Palatine, Ill.), Rachel Kelly (Downers Grove South HS, Downers Grove, Ill.), Kerri McGrail (Plainfield North HS, Plainfield, Ill.), Emma Grandgeorge (Sycamore HS, Sycamore, Ill.), Britton Dallas (International School of Indiana, Indianapolis, Ind.), and Alicia Hughes (Oswego HS, Oswego, Ill.). Whiteside expects freshmen Micahela Bogdanske (Lodi HS, Lodi, Wis.), Suzie Brashler (Downers Grove North HS, Downers Grove, Ill.), Hana Lobsinger (Wheaton-Warrenville South HS, Wheaton, Ill.), Caroline McPherson (Sterling HS, Sterling, Ill.), Rachel Rodriguez (Mahomet-Seymour HS, Mahomet, Ill.), and Sara Ruthberg (Lisle HS, Lisle, Ill.) to add depth to this group.

STEEPLECHASE - The steeplechase will return a strong group from last year's squad including senior captain, and school record holder in the 2,000 meter steeplechase, Annie Heifner (Oregon HS, Oregon, Wis.). Heifner, who was a member of the school record setting 4x1600 relay team a year ago, has the fastest returning time from last year, but she was followed closely by juniors Amanda Pease (United Township HS, East Moline, Ill.) and Kristen Whiteside (Zion Benton HS, Winthrop Harbor, Ill.). Fellow junior Kelsey Stockert (Peoria Notre Dame HS, Mapleton, Ill.) and sophomore Kris Bowen (Kaneland HS, Elburn, Ill.) will also be key contributors in this event.

THROWS - The return of a few all-conference caliber throwers have the Vikings looking for big things from their throwers. Junior school record holder Liana Beauchamp (Genoa-Kingston HS, Kingston, Ill.) was the conference champion in the hammer throw a year ago and she is expected to lead the throwing crew. In addition to throwing the hammer, she also contributes in the shot where she was all-conference. Also returning is senior Bethany Siwek (Woodstock HS, Woodstock, Ill.) who would have been competing for an all-conference spot last year if not for a broken finger. Siwek and sophomore Sarah Dau (Glenbard West HS, Glen Ellyn, Ill.) will throw the hammer, discus, and shot put. Senior Jordan Mauerman (Albany HS, Albany, Wis.) returns as the top javelin thrower, and she has the ability to be an all-conference performer this year. She will be joined in the event by freshman Lindsey Tripp (Shelbyville HS, Shelbyville, Ill.).

JUMPS - The jumps look like they could be one of the deepest areas for Augustana this season. Senior captain Samantha Bazely (Alleman HS, Coal Valley, Ill.) will be the leader of the long and triple jumpers. She will be joined in both events by returning all-conference performer Astin Moravek. They will be joined by a host of talented returners including Laura Polizzi (Crystal Lake South HS, Crystal Lake, Ill.), Veronica Bertillotti (Prospect HS, Mount Prospect, Ill.), Shannon Leyva (Carl Sandburg HS, Orland Park, Ill.), and Taylor Mills (Glenbard South HS, Glenbard, Ill.). Freshmen Kayla Bushey (Luther North HS, Chicago, Ill.) and Anna Urbanczyk (Glenbrook North HS, Northbrook, Ill.) will be expected to contribute in both the long and triple jump. The vertical jumps will be led by  pole vaulters Taylor Tjardes (Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley HS, Gibson City, Ill.) and Taelar Hillyer (Alleman HS, Bettendorf, Iowa). Both have been all-conference performers in past seasons. Katie Dinkel and Elise Davis will be asked to split time between sprints and pole vaulting. Freshman trio Danielle Engel (Saint Charles North HS, Saint Charles, Ill.), Emalee Leigh (United Township HS, Hampton, Ill.), and Catie Nelson (Geneseo HS, Annawan, Ill.) will also pole vault. Freshman Kendra Rakers (Belleville Township West HS, Millstadt, Ill.) will be asked to handle most of the high jumping responsibility. 

HEPTATHLON - The heptathlon will be in good hands this year. Juniors Johanna Schnitzler (Downers Grove South HS, Woodridge, Ill.) and Julia Popp (Boylan Catholic HS, Belvidere, Ill.) will be the main to contributors. Both were all-conference performers a year ago and Schnitzler holds the school record in the indoor pentathlon.

- Story by student assistant Paul Hurd