A year ago, more than 60 points separated the women's track and field team from the nearest school at the Mid-American Conference Championships. Then-seniors Jada Phelps and Linise Gordon each scored 28.5 points, leading the Cardinals to its winning mark of 187.5 points.
This year, however, the Cardinals have lost their two superstars and took a different approach than the favorites they have been the last few years. In the indoor MAC Championships, the team managed only a fourth-place finish, but head coach Sue Parks said that does not discourage her or the team.
"We're not just going to lie down and die," Parks said. "You don't replace people like Jada Phelps and Linise Gordon overnight, but we have able people to step up."
The key replacement is junior Patricia Soman, who ranks in the top five in the MAC in both the long jump and triple jump. Soman also had a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the long jump.
But the key for the Cardinals rest heavily on its national-caliber distance runners. Juniors Katie Nowak and Stacie Ritz both earned All-America honors over the last two years and both are once again ranked at the top of the league.
Nowak, arguably the best distance runner in school history, ranks in the top 10 in the MAC in five events, ranging from the 800-meter run to the 10,000-meter run.
Ritz, who is recovering from an ankle injury, will be limited in her effectiveness due to her lack of involvement.
"Stacey is doing the best she can," Parks said.
Nonetheless, with the Cardinals struggling in events such as the 100- and 200-meter hurdles, Parks said the emphasis on having her top athletes perform well was more of an issue.
"We have got to score our big points," Parks said. "We can't let those points slip by and hope to make them up with lower finishes.
"We're going to have to have an outstanding meet. We can't have a good one, we have to have a great one. We just can not have any slip ups."6622Gl>w. track preview 5.15.02