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[AUG. 20, 2004]  Third-year cross country coach Erin Verbeck has set high goals for the runners at Lincoln College this season, beginning with the opening meet in the Waubonsee Valley Invite at Sugar Grove on Sept. 4.

"Our quality of runners has greatly improved over the three years I have been here," said Verbeck. "We want to have a good showing in the opening meet, and the athletes hope to win the regional and qualify as a team to compete in the nationals. They have been working hard, and their goal is to have a successful season."

Heading the list of candidates on the men's side is Clint Wombles, a sophomore from Pleasant Hill High School. "Clint was 41st in the nation last season, and we are looking for him to be the leader this season," said Verbeck. "He is joined by four other outstanding runners. Our top five have been winners in high school and hope to continue the winning tradition at LC."

Joining Wombles as top candidates will be Tim Jenkins, a freshman from Pittsfield; Dave Stouffer, a freshman from Kaneland; Craig Frederiksen, a freshman from Moline; and Mike Verre, a freshman from Moline.

"Jenkins was a qualifier in track in the Class AA 800 last season, and Verre is the best recruit we have signed. I expect Verre to push Wombles for the top spot. Stouffer has the potential to be an all-American, and Frederiksen is a swimmer who is also a runner who put in the most work over the summer," Verbeck said.

Others who should contribute are Brian Ruder, a freshman from Maine South; Anthony Swift, a freshman from Thornridge; Travis Starr, a sophomore from Rock Island; Jon Brook a freshman from Rockford Lutheran; and Curtis Hughes, a freshman from East St. Louis.

 

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Replacing all-American Christien Taitt will be one of the biggest challenges for the women runners; however, Verbeck thinks she has enough talent to challenge for a regional berth.

"Dana Griffin, a freshman from Quincy, was all-state in track in the 400 and 800, and she should be in the top 15 in the nation," Verbeck said. "She will be pushed by Emily Escobedo, Harlem freshman, who has shown a great attitude and has been a very hard worker. She has the potential to be all-American. Jazzii Echols, freshman from Thornridge, was a national qualifier in summer track, and she will push the top two on our squad. She also has the potential to be all-American before she is finished at Lincoln College.

"Anita Swift, a freshman from Thornridge, ran track four years in high school, and she will help improve our team this season," continued Verbeck. "We also have Tarra Bodnar, a sophomore from Lockport, returning from an injury last season. She is showing improvement and should help our squad. Bridget Dietz, a freshman from Libertyville, is slowly getting back into shape and will be a key to our team success."

[Bill Martinie, Lincoln College]

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