Kansas City, Mo. – With its top three runners returning this fall, the Saint Xavier University women's cross country team received the No. 25 spot in the 2011 NAIA Women's Cross Country Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll when it was recently released by the national office. The Cougars had a solid 2010 campaign finishing second overall at the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) meet behind only No. 16 Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) and also qualifying its top two runners, Rachael Dean (Lindenhurst, Ill./Judson University/Lakes) and Jordan Wallace (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way North), for the NAIA Cross Country National Championships. Dean, who earned All-American honors in 2010 by finishing No. 12 nationally, returns for her senior season and will lead SXU this fall.
"It is nice to be ranked among the NAIA's elite, but in no way are we satisfied with No. 25," said Saint Xavier University women's cross country coach Lisa Ebel. "I truly believe that we have the talent this season to move up and improve our national rank. I think our schedule provides us with a number of opportunities to challenge ourselves. I believe we will rise to the occasion."
Wallace enters her sophomore season with the Cougars in 2011, while senior Jackie Ott (Island Lake, Ill./Marian Central Catholic) is expected to have another big year as well. Ott was the team's No. 3 runner most of last season and narrowly missed a chance to qualify for the national meet. SXU also returns senior veteran Alyssa Driscoll (Marion, Iowa/Driscoll) and will gain the services of sophomores Krista Olenek (Algonquin, Ill./Marian Central Catholic) and Mercedes Mancha (Elgin, Ill./Streamwood) from the track team. The squad also landed some talented newcomers during the offseason with the additions of junior transfer Ashley Shares (Palos Park, Ill./Moraine Valley CC/Stagg) as well as freshmen Kayla Droessler (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic), Amanda Magee (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way North) and Elise Prieto (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg).
Saint Xavier opens its 2011 season on Saturday, September 3, with the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) Opener at Horsetail Slough Course in Palos Heights, Ill. The women's race begins at 10 a.m.