Following an American Midwest Conference championship and a 17th-place finish at the NAIA Cross Country Championships last year, the Park women's cross country team seeks a return to the national event for the ninth-consecutive year in 2013 but will have to do so with a group of young runners.
"We are young, but had a good recruiting class and I am comfortable with it as we have some good things going," said Park head coach Brian Renshaw entering his 23rd season as the reigning AMC Coach of the Year. "It will be a rebuilding year having lost the leadership and experience of Lindsey McDonald and key runners in Neisha Marchbanks and A'brey Rogers."
All three runners lost finished in the top seven at the AMC Championship last fall earning All-Conference honors while helping the Pirates claim an AMC title.
Park returns only one senior for 2013 as Elizabeth Grubbs (Gladstone, Mo.) aims to improve on a fifth-place finish at last year's AMC Championships earning All-Conference accolades.
"Elizabeth has done a good job for us in the past and as the only senior she will have to take on even more this year," added Renshaw.
Joining Grubbs as the only other runners coming back for the Pirates are sophomores Teresa Owensby (Raytown, Mo.) and Kara Lough (Wentzville, Mo.) after the pair competed last year in the AMC and NAIA Championships.
Coach Renshaw rounds out the team welcoming six newcomers to the team with one junior transfer in Angela Mancuso (Kansas City, Mo.) from Johnson County Community College and five freshmen.
Freshmen Lydia Becker (Parkville, Mo.), Tracey Benitez (Kansas City, Mo.), Erin Esry (Hamilton, Mo.), Laurel Gagnon (Hooksett, N.H.), and Persis Grubbs (Gladstone, Mo.) add a new dynamic to a historically consistent program.
"The freshmen we have brought in are women who were leaders in their prior programs. It is a little different process to teach them they are not the runners they were before and how to step up mentally, but I am looking forward to working with them," said Renshaw.
Park opens the 2013 schedule and its defense of the AMC title Saturday (Aug. 31) at the Bob Timmons Classic in Lawrence, Kan., hosted by the University of Kansas.