South Florida’s cross country teams enter the 2002 season with a particular goal.
“Our goal, like every year, is to be one of the top two in the conference,” head coach Greg Thiel said of his teams, which both finished 30th out of 31 teams at last season’s NCAA Championship.
The Bulls look to get on the right track when they begin the season today in Bloomington, Ind., at the Indiana Open.
“We’re looking for the teams to go there, come out healthy, and just have a good race,” Thiel said. “But we also want to win.”
The women’s team is coming off last year’s impressive season when they finished runner-up to Marquette in Conference USA. However, the Bulls must replace two of their top runners from a year ago, Tara and Tiffany Quinn. Tara Quinn’s 68th-place finish in last year’s NCAAs was the best-ever finish for a USF runner at a national cross-country championship.
“Losing Tara and Tiffany was very difficult,” Thiel said. “It’s going to be a tougher year.”
Senior Kristy Fuller is expected to help fill the void. Thiel said she should be one of the top runners for the women this year.
“I expect Kristy to have a breakout year,” he said. “She should come out and be our No. 1 runner.”
Also looking to pace the women this season is senior Cori Kill and sophomore Christa Benton, last year’s C-USA Freshman Runner of the Year.
Thiel said although the women’s team is young, he is optimistic they will be very competitive, and he sees even more improvement from the men’s team. After a disappointing season last year for the men, 11th in C-USA, Thiel said he believes the talent exists to win the conference.
“Anything short of a conference championship will probably be disappointing,” Thiel said.
A strong recruiting class and the return of fifth-year senior Andrew Smith from a redshirt year should help give the Bulls a chance to win. Smith will rely on help from freshmen Derek Lincoln and Sean Burris, as well as junior Adam Chumbley and sophomore Jim Vitale.
The Bulls have a new member on the coaching staff this year: former standout runner and 2001 graduate, Rita Arndt. Arndt said she’s excited about being back at USF and having the opportunity to help the teams.
“I was looking for a way to get back into it, and coaching is obviously the ideal way to do it,” Arndt said.