Aug. 23, 2006
PENSACOLA, Fla. - For the first time last year, head coach Matt Dobson found himself coaching the West Florida men's and women's cross country teams. Dobson, who had compiled a career .806 winning percentage as the men's coach, hoped to bring his winning formula to the women's team. The women's team responded with a 53-13 (.803) record, the team's best record since 1998.
"It was a learning process for the team and me," said Dobson. "There was a transition to get the team to believe in my training and they responded very well."
Junior Dawn Kane returns as one of West Florida's top runners. Kane was the top Argonaut finisher in six of eight races last season. "Dawn is our most consistent runner," said Dobson. "She has conditioned herself well, and she is in great shape."
Four other veteran runners look to help lead the Argonauts. Fifth-year senior Jen Pulmano will serve as team captain after receiving a medical red-shirt last season. Pulmano ran personal records in the 800 meters and 1500 meters in the spring. Junior Diana Sitar posted three top ten finishes last season, including a seventh place finish at the Blazer Invitational.
Two sophomores will also compete for the top five spots. Nicole Stanley finished in the top 10 in five of eight races as a freshman. Fellow sophomore Jessica Spurgeon only raced in two meets last season, but a strong spring track season has prepared her for the upcoming cross country season.
While Dobson did not sign any freshman for the upcoming season, two student-athletes, who previously ran for the Argonauts, return in 2006. Senior Lauren Brooks returns after studying abroad. She was the top Argonaut finisher in the final four races of 2003. Brooks ran during West Florida's spring track season and the summer, and Dobson believes she has the ability to take over the top spot again. Another senior, Kacey Countryman ran for West Florida in 2001. That season, she was the top Argonaut finisher in seven of the nine races. "Kacey is coming off some injuries, but she put in some miles over the summer," said Dobson. "She will get better and better."
"Our hard preseason workouts have helped us become healthier and stronger upfront than we have ever been," said Dobson. "I feel we are just as strong as the men's team with our top five."
Dobson believes West Florida can duplicate and improve their success from last season. "We have some tough opponents in our region, but we may surprise some teams," said Dobson. "If we can stay healthy, the team will have a very successful season."
West Florida will open the 2006 season on Sept. 1 at the Appalachian State University Invitational in Boone, N.C.