Women's cross country preview: Wilson to lead deep Bobcats

Bates women's cross country hosts its first official race on Sept. 12, 2015, with the No. 10 ranking in New England according to the USTFCCCA. (File photo by Tom Leonard '78) 

LEWISTON, Maine -- With three straight top-10 finishes at the NCAA New England Division III Regionals under their belts, the Bates women's cross country team aims for a fourth and a return to the national rankings in the 2015 season. Bates enters its first official race on Saturday with the No. 10 ranking in New England according to the USTFCCCA.

"I am very excited for the season. We have a large group of women who came in fit and will make our team more competitive and deeper," said 11th-year head coach Jennifer "Jay" Hartshorn

"Our top seven (and top 14) should be a mix of athletes from every class, which is always exciting. Also, our depth will help make practice competitive and help everyone get better."

Hartshorn expects senior captains Addie Cullenberg (Farmington, Maine) and Katie Courtney (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) to be "great leaders," with Cullenberg designated one of the team's likely top five runners. The rest of the team's likely top five represent a mix of runners who could have terrific years with more consistent racing than past seasons.

Junior Jessica Wilson (Cumberland, Maine) appears to be the Bobcats' top returner, judging by preseason practices and the annual alumni race on Sept. 5, which she won running side by side with standout alumna Kallie Nixon '14. Juniors Molly Chisholm (Wayland, Mass.) and Katherine Cook (South Burlington, Vt.) are poised to raise their performances up a notch, helping to make up for the loss of graduated standouts like Elena Jay and Sarah Fusco. Meanwhile, senior two-time indoor track All-American Isabelle Unger (Charlotte, Vt.) makes for another key cog in the team's lineup.

Bates' first-year class includes the talent for "1-2 first-years in the top seven, and more in the top 14," said Hartshorn.

Bates races Colby at its home course, Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, in the annual Bates/Colby Class Wave Races on Saturday. The Bobcats stay at home next weekend for the Bates Invitational, before traveling to the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University on Oct. 2, an early-season highlight. Other important meets include Maine State Championships at Bowdoin Oct. 17, NESCAC Championships Oct. 31 at Wesleyan, and NCAA Regionals on Nov. 14 in Waterford, Connecticut.