Harriers Hot to Trot|
Sept. 7, 2007
LAS VEGAS - The UNLV cross country team begins its 2007 slate this weekend as it travels west to the Asics/UC Irvine Invitational on the campus of UC Irvine. The women will take to the course at 9 AM. The meet was originally marked for Huntington Park, but was moved to the Anteater Recreation Center after a scheduling conflict.
A strong mix of veterans to go with a large recruiting class with a number of talented but inexperienced freshmen has head coach Tony Houchin believing the Rebels can move back toward the top of the pack in the Mountain West Conference. The Rebels finished the 2006 season with a ninth place finish at the MWC Championships, and the MWC preseason poll has them slated in the same spot.
If the Rebels are to surprise and prove preseason prognosticators wrong, it will start with sophomore sensation Charlotte Browning.
Browning was named the MWC Freshman of the Year in track and field last year, winning the 1,500 meters at the league outdoor championships while also finishing eighth at the NCAA West Regional in the same event. Browning, a native of Addlestone, England, enrolled at UNLV in the spring semester last year, missing the cross country season.
She will join true freshmen Jessica Heil and Angie Silva to form a solid group of student-athletes who will be making their cross country debuts for the Rebels but bring a lot of talent to the fold. Heil was the Desert Region champion as a senior for Centennial High School in Peoria, Ariz., and Silva was a state qualifier in her final prep season at Oakridge High School in El Dorado Hills, Calif.
Returning letterwinners Jenni Shearer, Ali Ainsworth, Ashley Lif and Laura Lundin will provide leadership to the young squad that features 10 newcomers. Shearer, a junior from Fort Wayne, Ind., has been the Rebels' top finisher at every meet since her freshman year and she finished 54th at the 2006 league meet as a sophomore.
"Our numbers are bigger than they have been in recent years here and that will help in a lot of areas," Houchin said. "We will be better prepared to handle any injuries, and at each practice the group will push each other to get better every day."