Tiger Cross Country Teams
The 2005 season was a banner year for the Cowley College volleyball team as they captured its first conference title since 1986, and advanced to the national tournament for the first time in 27 years. However, a loss to Johnson County in the national championship game has the squad eager for another shot at claiming the title. “A lot of us were really upset after losing that game, so I think they are hungry for it,” Cowley head coach Joanna Pryor said. “I think the best part is having experience at the national tournament now, which should give us an advantage over other teams.” Cowley returns six players from last year’s team, including all-American Eliane Domingos, who was named the Jayhawk Conference Eastern Division Freshman of the Year.
The Lady Tigers also return setter Marina Tosi, the nations leader in assists, to go along with middle hitter/outside hitter Renee Breckenridge and libero Ashleigh Hurt, who are coming off solid freshman campaigns in which they were named second-team all-conference. Sophomore Kelsey Talbott will make the transition from outside hitter to right side hitter, while Brooke Brownlee should see more playing time as a sophomore. “We have six sophomores with a lot of experience and as long as they maintain leadership on and off the court, I think that this team will mix well together,” Pryor said.
Joining the sophomores is a strong freshman class, which is led by freshman Lilian Rezende, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter from Franca, Brazil. Rezende will hope to help the Lady Tigers make up for the loss of two-time All-American Fernanda Domingos, who is now playing for the University of Alabama Birmingham. Pryor likes the versatility of the freshman she recruited. Courtney Shanklin, a 5-foot-10 freshman, is a good example of that versatility as she could be used as either an outside hitter, middle hitter, or right side hitter. “Our freshmen know what they have to do to play and they will play any position to do that. We lost some really good players, but I think we have some people that can step into those spots.” Pryor said. Along with Tosi, Pryor landed another talented setter in Andrea Mitchell from Bentonville, Ark. “Andrea is so quick, she seems to get to every ball and knows what to do with it,” Pryor said.
The Lady Tigers are also excited about adding sophomore transfer Stephanie Walcher into the mix. Walcher spent her freshman year playing at East Texas Baptist University, and will be used as an outside hitter/defensive specialist at Cowley. Nikki Winningham, a 5-foot-10 sophomore transfer that competed in track as a freshmen at Oklahoma State University, and Valerie Cox, a 5-foot-11 freshman from Norwich High School round out the Lady Tigers squad. Cowley will once again play a tough non-conference schedule against several NJCAA Division I programs, and will face stiff challenges in the conference and district. Pryor believes the difficult schedule will prepare the squad for the national tournament. “I think we can do as well or even better than we did last year barring any injuries,” Pryor said.
Bringing in a pair of stellar recruiting classes, the Cowley College men and women’s cross country teams are anticipating big things for the upcoming season. The Tiger men return the defending Jayhawk Conference Eastern Division champion in Dustin Garcia, who continued the Tigers’ tradition of winning conference as Cowley has had the men’s conference champion in all five years of the program.
Cowley will add outdoor track all-Americans Daniel Maina and Stanley Mugo into the mix. Maina was the national champion in four events during the indoor track season, and the national champion in two events in the outdoor season. “Daniel and Stanley will be significant additions to the team,” Cowley head coach Mark Phillips said. “Daniel will be one of the favorites to win a national title and Stanley will have a chance to be an All-American.” Sophomores Johnny Thomas and Ferrien Harris join Garcia as the only returners from last year’s squad. Justin DeClerck also ran track for the Tigers in the spring, but will be considered a freshman in cross country. Mauricio Morales from Emporia High School will be expected to make an immediate impact as he finished sixth at the AAU Junior Olympic Steeplechase this summer, and was a member of the Kansas 5A state champion 4x800-meter relay team. Freshman Gilbert Manzanares was one of the best runners in the Ft. Meyers, Fla., area, and Brett Koehn of Enid, Okla. placed fifth at the state cross country meet as a senior. Both Manzanares and Koehn will be among the Tigers’ top-seven runners. Dakota Price and Alex Werner will also be in the mix as they are both All-State cross country runners from Elk City, Okla. “This men’s team has the possibility to be so much better than the team we had my first year here, and that team lost regionals by one point and finished third at nationals,” Phillips said. “We have got to stay healthy and take care of business.”
The women’s team also has a chance for a special season as they have doubled its number of runners from a year ago. “My first two years here we battled to have five women on the team where as this year we are starting with 10,” Phillips said. “We signed some girls that are really going to make a difference for us.” Patricia Dailey, the lone sophomore on the women’s cross country team, will look to follow up on a strong freshman campaign in which she finished third in the conference and 10th in the region. “We rely a lot on Patricia’s steadiness,” Phillips said. Irene Kosgei ran track for the Tigers last season, but has two years of eligibility to run cross country. She has been working to recover from an Achilles injury. “If Irene is healthy she will definitely be an All-American for us,” assistant coach Ryan Turner said.
The Tiger coaches are expecting big things from Ashley Cronin, a three-time track state champion from Stroud, Okla., that earned all-state honors. They are also high on Bethany Schmidt from Kremlin, Okla., who was a cross country state qualifier her senior year. Dawn Zimmerman, a track state qualifier at Belle Plaine High School, and Ali Jorgensen, a talented half miler, worked hard this summer and will be among the Lady Tigers top-seven runners. Fellow freshmen Kim Bryant (Arkansas City), Christy Buller (Goltry, Okla.), Hannah Burr (Brookville), and Brenna Martinez (Newton) will also be in the hunt for one of the top-seven spots. ”We have an incredibly talented freshman group,” Phillips said. “We should compete to win conference with the women’s team. We may not win regionals, but we could still finish in the top-five or six teams at nationals.” Despite the youth of the squads, Turner is expecting big things from the teams. “This year’s teams are stronger than last year’s teams all the way down the line,” Turner said.