KUTZTOWN – The Kutztown University women’s cross country team put itself back in the national spotlight for the first time in a decade last season. While running in postseason events is a common occurrence, last year brought a whole new level of expectations and pressure situations of running for a chance at qualifying for nationals. While KU fell just short of its ambitious goals last year, the Golden Bears return in full force in 2018 looking to use last years’ experience to once again compete as one of the best teams in the region.
The Golden Bears used a senior-less lineup last year to finish third at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championships, the programs best since 2008, and fifth at the NCAA Atlantic Region Championships. While fifth in the region needs to be applauded and not lost in the shuffle of high expectations, Kutztown knew that after its strong showing at PSACs, finishing in the top-four at regionals to qualify for nationals was within its grasp.
Kutztown hasn’t qualified for nationals as a team since 2010, and last season saw additional pressure
placed on the entire Golden Bear roster for the first time in their careers. Head Coach Ray Hoffman enters his 21st at the helm of the cross country program and knows that keeping his team on the same course as they were last year will be pivotal in meeting another year of lofty expectations.
“Last year we ran with no seniors, a handful of juniors and some sophomores and freshmen behind them,” Hoffman said. “It was the first time any of those girls were in the situation of making a national meet. We ran solid at regionals, but 1-2 other teams ran really well and bumped us out of making nationals. We always could have had a couple better finishes, but I was really happy with our group and think that experience is going to pay off this season.”
KU features an upperclassmen-driven squad in 2018 with five seniors and three juniors. This group has brought a great amount of leadership to the program and an encompassing ‘team captain mentality’ that is able to keep the team’s focus on the task ahead.
Kutztown was picked third in the PSAC Preseason Poll, tied for the highest in program history (third in 2010).
“Our goal is to make nationals,” Hoffman said. “This group has the talent to get there, but also has shown the ability to keep their focus on one day of training at a time and to not look at championships until much later in the season. With last year’s late disappointment, they know that if they want to accomplish their goal, they have to put in the work – and that started in the summer.”
Stephanie Bresadola returns as one of the leaders for KU. She is a two-time All-Region and All-PSAC runner who finished eighth at PSACs last year. She is the fourth-best returning finisher from PSACs last year who looks to elevate her role as KU’s top runner.
Right on her heels the past two seasons has been fellow senior Alexis Dongvort. Dongvort was an All-PSAC runner last year who has significantly elevated her potential the last year-and-a-half. She had a lighter track & field season last year, but returns in full force and is coming off a strong summer workout plan. She and Bresadola have run stride-for-stride at times in their careers and look to continue that strong trend as seniors.
Amanda Ferraro has been a solid 3-4 runner for KU and earned her first All-PSAC honor as a redshirt-sophomore last season. She finished in the top-30 at both PSACs and regionals last year, and improving on those marks will give KU great depth in the postseason. Senior Erin Callaghan followed Ferraro at regionals in 39th and has proven to be one of KU’s most consistent and dependable runners.
Kutztown’s freshmen class last year gave the program an immediate boost that allowed it to finish in the top-five in championship meets. Hoffman touts the group of Sarah Shannon, Lindsay Smyth, Dootleen Joseph and Katie Duguid for showing him their ability to run as veterans. Shannon and Smyth led the group and both ran at PSACs and regionals, but looking long-term with a large amount of seniors this year, Hoffman sees this group stepping right into leadership roles in 2019.
Lindsay Hoffman was an All-PSAC runner as a freshman in 2016, but has battled injuries since then and has been working to get back healthy and to the fitness level she trained to as a freshman. Time will tell with Hoffman, but the potential is there for her to return to all-conference form as a junior this season.
Kutztown’s next group of runners add great depth to an already-talented roster – any of whom could pop in and out of Kutztown’s top-7 runners. Duguid, now a sophomore, ran as KU’s No. 4 early on last year as redshirt-junior Leah Talley has also run in championship meets.
Kutztown’s top-two freshmen bring championship experience in cross country. Kiara Mayers and Lynne O’Connor will add strong depth right away and could work their way into top-7 conversation.
Senior Julie Stratton leads a middle distance geared group. Sophomores Julia Wiemken and Megan Kirn join Stratton and should add a quality base for track & field season this winter, as well as newcomers Caroline Sanford and Devon Montanari.
Former soccer player Angela Motolese joins the program for her senior year with immediate potential.