Among the seniors, co-captains Pat Butler and Mike Van Nimwegen will provide outstanding leadership and talent while Colin Rusch, who sat out the 1996 season with mononucleosis, could give the team a big lift if he is ready to go in 1997.
The junior class has the strongest performers in Mike Keating, Greg Peterson, Anders Peterson and Patrick Keegan. Keating paced the Cardinals in six of eight events in 1996, including a solid 34th-place showing in New England. Greg Peterson was the team's second finisher most of the time while Anders Peterson usually hit the tape as the third Cardinal place-taker. Keegan was among the team's scoring five on five occasions. Returning sophomores Raul Lavarreda-Perez and Benji Marchant of Sidwell Friends fame and Bruce Perlow (1:54 800m indoors, 1997) add to the depth and strength of the squad.
The NESCAC again should dominate the region as it did in 1996, capturing seven of the first 11 spots at the New England Division III Meet with Williams and Tufts going on to place fifth and seventh, respectively, at the NCAA National Championship. Williams is expected to remain quite strong while another Little Three rival Amherst might be another team to watch this year.
Wesleyan will open the year in a three-way race with Trinity and Conn. College. Wesleyan will be chasing its 40th consecutive win over Trinity in a dual-race setting, dating back to 1935. An addition to the Cardinals' racing state will be the ECAC Meet November 9.
Competing in the very talented NESCAC, Wesleyan will find the going difficult as NESCAC controlled the regional meet, holding seven of the top eight places, and sending four teams to the NCAAs. Three others, including Wesleyan, had an individual national qualifier, meaning seven of the 11 NESCAC colleges were represented at the NCAAs, led by Williams (fifth) and Bowdoin (tenth).
Coach Swanson expects good things from his co-captains Rachel Hertzman and Sara McMahon. Other returning letterwinners include Ava Gordinier, Angie Steward, Leah Samson and Emily Collins.
Two newcomers whom Coach Swanson feels will make an immediate impact are Heather Lambert and Maureen McMurray. Their high school time indicate the ability to crack the Cardinals' scoring five from the outset.
The most successful team on campus in term of wins and losses since becoming a varsity sport in 1976, women's cross country holds a 144-42-4 overall mark (a .768 winning percentage), including a six-year period (1981-86) when the team was almost unbeatable. Compiling a 77-4-1 record over the stretch, Wesleyan placed as high as second in New England (1984).
Wesleyan has had three other top-five finishes, most recently in 1994 behind the leadership of two-time All-American assistant coach Sarah Hann '95. Allegra Burton '87 was a three-time All-American, going undefeated in 18 dual meets from 1983-86 and setting the Wesleyan course record in 1986 (17:21).