By Taylor Smith
The women’s cross country team looks ahead to qualifying for the NCAA championship meet again despite setbacks early in the season.
The team begins this season without two of their All-North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) runners due to graduation and injury.
According to third year head coach Matt Wackerly, junior Cara DeAngelis, defending NCAC champion is going to be out most of the season, and possibly the entire season, with a stress fracture in her foot.
Even with the setback, the team feels confident in their ability to do well this season. Senior captain Emily Johnson said the team is very young but they share the same goals.
“Everyone is willing to put all of their effort in, including even changing their lifestyle to completing the goals we want to as a team,” Johnson said.
Johnson said at first DeAngelis’ injury might have caused the team morale to slip, but it is now a driving force for the team.
“We have that chip on our shoulder to prove that we’re still a good team,” Johnson said.
Wackerly said he believes DeAngelis’ presence during her injury is great. He said she is there every day on her crutches at practice while most runners would be devastated with that kind of injury.
“She (DeAngelis) inspires me, inspires me as a coach, that kind of commitment she has is extraordinary,” Wackerly said.
Wackerly said there is a group of six freshmen on the team that have started to distinguish themselves and are ready to pick up some of the slack.
“They’re all good, hungry, an aggressive group,” Wackerly said. “The future is extremely bright.”
Johnson said they’re ready to take on the conference. The NCAA pre-season rank has last year’s conference champions, Oberlin, ranked in the top 20 in the nation.
“Oberlin is a really deep team,” Johnson said. “It was unexpected, with our numbers, to get second (at NCAC championships) last year.”
Wackerly said Oberlin is a good team, but he also knows that DePauw is an underrated team which will likely be ranked later in the season.
Johnson said she believes Wackerly is more involved this year and outspoken. She said he has confidence in the younger team.
“His (Wackerly’s) presence is stronger,” Johnson said. “His enthusiasm changed, I honestly think because he sees our potential and what our team can be.”