The difference between winning an ODAC title and falling short of a championship can be as small of a gap as two points. The Washington and Lee women's track and field team learned that the hard way last season at the ODAC Indoor Championship when it came in second to Roanoke by the slim margin.
This season, the Generals have a change at the top as first-year Head Coach Dana Freeman takes over the program after serving as an assistant track and field coach at Ashland University the past three seasons. Freeman is looking to build upon the success W&L has had in the past and wants to move the team to the top of the conference leaderboard.
"The focus since I came in has been commitment," Freeman explained. "Obviously, challenging for the conference title on March 2 and April 17 and 18 are something that we are really excited about, but those are just three days that we compete. It is what we do on a daily basis that will help us to achieve those goals that have been a focus of this program this year."
One of the top returners for the Generals is 2013 NCAA National Qualifier, junior Janey Fugate. She defended her 400m hurdles ODAC crown last season, and qualified for the NCAA Championship by breaking her own school record with a time of 1:02.45. She dealt with injuries toward the end of the season, which led to her finishing 22nd at nationals.
"Keeping her healthy will be a big part of our success," Freeman said. "We took it pretty easy with her training throughout the fall, but as a returning national qualifier, she has plenty of motivation this year."
The Blue and White lost Outdoor ODAC Co-Athlete of the Meet Lauren Schultz and First Team All-ODAC honoree Molly Ortiz to graduation in the spring, but bring back a strong group of returners in the distance events.
"The distance group has always been a stability of the program," Freeman noted. "I look for it to be the same way this year."
Senior captain Annelise Madison totaled 36 points over various events at the indoor and outdoor league championship last season, and looks to be locked in this season after an impressive showing in the fall.
"Annelise had an awesome cross country season, making it to Nationals for the first time," Freeman said. "It was great for her to accomplish that and we are looking to build on that as we ready for the indoor and outdoor season."
Along with Madison, junior Casey Mackintosh is back after winning the 10,000m at the Outdoor ODAC Championship last year. She also scored in the 3,000m at the indoor championship and the 5,000m at the outdoor championship.
In the sprints, the Generals saw most of their success in the relays in 2013. The team returns three of the four athletes, Fugate, senior Lauren Woodie and junior Sarah Helms, who took second in the 4x400m relay in indoors and third in the 4x400m at the outdoor championship.
"What is really unique about this sprints squad is that we don't have a superstar, but what we do have is a group of very talented young ladies who work hard and push each other on a daily basis to get better," Freeman stated. "What I'm looking forward to is the relays. They are going to be really special this year, because we have that group of individuals that work so well together."
The strongest field event for the Generals in recent years has been the pole vault, and that shouldn't be any different in 2014. Katterhagen returns for her third season, having won the pole vault title at the indoor and outdoor championship each of the last two years.
Along with Katterhagen, senior Alex Hagan (Tampa, Fla.) placed second in the pole vault at the indoor meet and third at outdoors. In the other jumps events, senior captain Leigh Dannhauser (Bronxville, N.Y.) brings back experience in the high jump, pole vault and the heptathlon.
Dannhauser took sixth in the high jump at the indoor championship and fourth at the outdoor meet. Sophomore Maggie Kleber will look to improve upon her second-place showing in the high jump at the indoor championship and her third-place finish at outdoors.
"The whole area of the jumps is going to provide depth and points at the conference level," Freeman said. "Jillian and Leigh provide a lot of leadership and guidance to not just the jumps group but the overall team."
The area that the Generals are continuing to try to improve is in the throwing events. The team is hoping senior Liz Olson will score at the outdoor meet in the javelin. She finished seventh in the event last season.
"We are looking to develop a presence in the throwing events in in the future," Freeman noted. "The team didn't score in those events last year and it is something we are looking to build upon."
The Blue and White was picked second in the ODAC indoor track and field preseason coaches' poll in December, behind defending champion Roanoke. With only two points to make up from last year's indoor meet, the coaching staff and the athletes are ready for the challenge in front of them.
"I'm excited to be here and be in my first head coaching role," Freeman stated. "The team has worked really hard, and to bring home a conference title would be a great accomplishment for this group."
Due to the way the NCAA and academic calendar fell this season, W&L did not get to compete in a meet before the winter break. The Generals will open the year at the Liberty Kick Off this weekend.
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