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Young Wildcats Look to Make an Immediate Impact in 2000



Oct. 5, 2000

There will be a new look to the Villanova women's cross country team in 2000 as five freshmen will play an integral part in the team's success. However, just because the Wildcats are young and inexperienced, expectations are still high on the Main Line. When your program captured seven of the last 11 NCAA Championships, producing All-Americans and competing and making a mark on the national scene is expected.

"I am excited about coaching this year's team. We have a nice blend of experience with our upperclassmen to go with five new freshmen," said first-year head coach Gina Procaccio. "It might take a little time, but if we can stay healthy I think we have a chance to surprise some people."

Villanova will have two voids to fill with Carmen Douma and Kristen Nicolini being lost to graduation. Douma had a sensational senior year last season winning four of the six meets she competed in including the Big East individual championship and the NCAA Regional meet. After finishing sixth at the 1998 NCAA meet, Douma was Villanova's top finisher a year ago with a 24th place effort. Nicolini was a steady runner for Villanova who was the team's number two runner for most of 1999. In 1998, she earned All-American honors by finishing 17th at the NCAA meet.

With Douma and Nicolini gone, the leadership role this year will fall on the shoulders of senior Ann McGranahan (Pensacola, Fla.). A seasoned veteran who has competed in big meets her entire career, McGranahan will battle to be the team's top runner. McGranahan is coming off a very good outdoor track season where she qualified for the NCAA Championships and looks poised for a big cross country season.

A runner on the rise for the Wildcats is sophomore Liz Awtrey (Burke, Va.) who should challenge McGranahan for the top spot. A hard worker, Awtrey has the ability to finish in the top 15 at the NCAA meet. Another runner looking for a breakout season is senior Geraldine McCarthy (Listowel, Ireland). Battling injury for most of her career, McCarthy is completely healthy and in the best shape of her career as she prepares for the 2000 campaign. She will be a major factor in team placement and will be one of the team's top five runners.

"Ann, Liz and Geraldine are very important to our team's success this year. All three have run in big meet and we will need them to run well and be leaders for the younger runners," said Procaccio. "I am confident that these three will provide us with consistency and they will help us be a factor on the national scene."

Three youngsters with a wealth of potential are Renee Gunning (Perkasie, Pa.), Rebecca Mitchell (Geneva, Ill.), and Carre Joyce (Charleston, S.C.). All three of these freshmen are tough, discipline runners who should make an immediate impact on the Main Line. If Gunning and Mitchell continue to progress, look for them both to make a name for themselves on the national scene at the NCAA meet in November.

Senior Meghan Courtney (Waterloo, N.Y.) and sophomore Sheila Klick (Lansdale, Pa.) are two returnees who will provide the Wildcats with experience. Courtney is a dedicated performer who has improved each year she has been in the program, while Klick is looking for a breakout year in this her sophomore season. Two other runners who will add depth to the Villanova attack are freshman Virginia Barb (Danbury, Conn.) and freshman Claudine Evangelista (Laurel Springs, N.J.).

The Wildcats will begin the season on Oct. 7 at the Paul Short Invitational in Lehigh. The team's first big test of the year will come on Oct. 14 at the NCAA pre-meet to be held in Ames, Iowa on the campus of Iowa State University. Villanova will shoot for its 11th Big East Championship on October 27 at the conference to be held at Franklin Park in Boston, Massachusetts. As is the case with any other, the team's success will be determined in the month of November at the NCAA Regional meet and then the NCAA Championships. This year, the regional meet will take place on Nov. 11 at Penn State, while the NCAA meet will be held at Iowa State.