Friday, October 31, 2008

Women hope team unity translates to success at MACs

Issue date: 10/31/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

The women's cross country team turned into a pack of tie-dyed, singing hippies on Tuesday for the team's annual "Ugly Day."

"The girls can be creative," said coach Karen Lutzke.

"Ugly Day" was the second of the team's four-day spirit week, held during Mid-American Conference Championship week every year.

"We were dressed like the '70s with weird makeup and spray-painted hair," said senior Amanda Rudert. "There's a goofy side to us."

The Chippewas, traveling tomorrow to Eastern Michigan for the conference meet, look at spirit week as a way to clear their minds before the race.

"It's good to unwind from the pressure of the practice week," Lutzke said.

Since circling the date on the calendar during preseason workouts, CMU is looking to save its best meet for its biggest.

"Since I've been here, I haven't seen a more dedicated and passionate team heading into the MAC meet," said senior Michelle Diverio.

The team is looking to rebound from a 38th-place finish at NCAA Pre-Nationals, where it finished behind two MAC teams.

Lutzke points to those teams - Miami and Ohio - plus Akron as the favorites in the 5K race, beginning at noon at Eagle Crest Golf Course in Ypsilanti.

"We have high expectations and high goals, and we want to accomplish them," Diverio said.

Also running in her last MAC Championship meet, Rudert, a fellow senior, wants to go out a winner.

"Our goal is definitely to win the race," Rudert said.

Rudert stressed the importance of competing and believes the rest will fall into place.

She is aiming for All-MAC accolades and new personal record in the meet, attempting to break the 18 minutes, 31 seconds set Sept. 19 at the George Dales Invitational.

"As a freshman, I didn't really understand what the meet was all about," Rudert said. "And after running in it for a few years, your expectations get higher each year."

CMU will carry 10 runners to the race, none of which were disclosed by Lutzke, who believes the team will run competitively and confidently.

"Those two aspects go hand-in-hand," Lutzke said. "Expectations are high for every meet but especially this one, and I think things will come together for us."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Team looks to qualify for first time at Pre-Nationals

Issue date: 10/17/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

The women's cross country team faces its biggest challenge yet at NCAA Pre-Nationals on Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.

The 6K meet features many of the best teams is women's cross country - including about 20 of 30 ranked teams - and is a welcome big-meet challenge for a team that's entering the final stretch of the season.

"We're really excited that we have a chance to compete against some really good schools," said senior Amanda Rudert. "It will be a good chance to see where we're at."

The Chippewas, who have yet to qualify for a Nationals meet, will compete against 41 other teams on the same course Nationals takes place.

They hope to improve their chances of receiving a return ticket to Terre Haute on Nov. 24, said coach Karen Lutzke.

With a good performance, the team will boost its prospects of earning an at-large bid after the Great Lakes Regional on Nov. 15.

The Nationals field is made up of first- and second-place teams in each region. The remaining bids are awarded at-large to the third and fourth-place teams that beat the highest number of Nationals qualifiers.

This stage provides an opportunity to beat many of those teams.

"It's almost more competitive than Nationals," Lutzke said. "You have teams that are really good that might fall through due to running bad at the regional meet, so in a sense, this meet is almost more competitive because people know they have to run well to have a chance to run at Nationals."

Seniors Michelle Diverio and Rudert believe the team can draw on its Oct. 3 race at Notre Dame for experience and confidence.

"It was a confidence booster, showing us we can run on the same course as those ranked teams," Diverio said. "We've had really positive attitude and everyone's been working hard."

Rudert echoed those thoughts.

"We're thriving in the big meets more than we have in the past and our confidence is higher," she said.

Lutzke will take 11 runners to race on a course she feels is geared more towards strength than speed, not entirely flat but with rolling hills.

After two weeks of rest and training and after what she called a "great workout" on Wednesday, Lutzke is confident about tomorrow's race.

"We're trying to beat as many teams as we can," she said. "I know we're ready."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Subs help women finish third

Issue date: 10/13/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

Leaving its top 10 runners at home, the women's cross country teamplaced third out of five teams at the Kensington Metropark on Friday for the Michigan Intercollegiates meet.

Leading the way for the Chippewas was sophomore Kelly Kobylczyk, running the course in 20 minutes, 8 seconds and placing seventh.

Kobylczyk eclipsed her previous high school times on the course by 30 seconds.

"I was really pleased with how she competed and moved up during the race," said coach Karen Lutzke.

CMU's 67 points trailed Western Michigan's meet-winning 33 points and Eastern Michigan's 35 points.

The Chippewas carried only six runners, mostly all underclassmen, as their teammates rested in preparation for Pre-Nationals on Saturday.

"I didn't want those girls to race three weeks in a row," Lutzke said of the decision to rest the runners.

Freshmen Rachael Wessel and Holly Anderson also placed in the top 15. Wessel finished in 11th place with a time of 20:26, and Anderson finished one spot and one second behind her.

"This was an opportunity for these girls to step up to the plate and be counted on as scorers," Lutzke said.

Noting that these runners haven't competed as much recently, Lutzke said she was pleased with the team's performance.

"These girls got their feet wet and did well," Lutzke said. "It wasn't a perfect race, but it definitely wasn't a bad race."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Newly-ranked women to hold out top runners, test youngsters

Issue date: 10/10/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

After two strong performances, the women's cross country team has rejoined the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Great Lakes Region rankings.

The Chippewas are ranked No. 14 and are sixth out of seven MAC teams featured in this week's 15-team ranking.

"It's nice to see our team ranked," said head coach Karen Lutzke.

"I think we're getting better and better. Our goal is not only to be ranked but to improve, and this shows us that we are improving."

The team debuted at No. 15 in the preseason rankings but was left off the list after a slow start.

Senior Amanda Rudert said it was frustrating to drop out, but the team showed determination to get noticed again.

"When we weren't in the rankings and saw the teams that were, we were frustrated because we knew we were just as good, if not better, than some of those teams," she said.

Rudert said the team should aim for a Top 10 ranking by season's end.

CMU is nestled between Bowling Green and Toledo in the rankings, with 13 teams looking up at intrastate rivals Michigan State and Michigan, who hold down the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively.

Lutzke looks at the rankings as a motivational tool.

"If you're not ranked, you should be mad, and if you are ranked, you should be excited," she said. "It adds to the excitement of any sport."

Today, the Chippewas compete in the Michigan Intercollegiate 6K, featuring all of the state's Division I schools except for Michigan and Michigan State.

Lutzke will rest her top 10 runners in preparation for the Pre-National meet next Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind., which also is a 6K race. Lutzke said it should allow some of the young runners an opportunity to compete for their spots in upcoming meets.

"We're heading to the end of the season and we have to make decisions on who can compete in which races," Lutzke said.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rudert bests own record by nearly 30 seconds

Issue date: 10/6/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

For the second time in two races, Amanda Rudert set a new personal record to lead the women's cross country team to a seventh-place finish in Friday's Notre Dame Invitational.

Rudert, a senior, finished 15th out of 198 runners with a time of 18 minutes, 6 seconds, eclipsing her previous record set on Sept. 19 by 25 seconds.

CMU's 223 points were only 20 behind sixth-place Ohio University, last year's MAC champion.

"We were pleased with our performance," Rudert said. "We did a nice job moving up throughout the race and passing competitors in the last mile."

Both Rudert and coach Karen Lutzke complimented the team's improvement in pack running.

After sophomore Danielle Dakroub's 42nd-place finish, four CMU runners finished close together in a pack - Raeanne Lohner (18:46, 57th overall), Michelle Diverio (18:46, 59th), Sarah Squires (18:47, 60th) and Brittany Dixon (18:47, 61st).

"They did a good job and ended up together at the end," Lutzke said.

Lutzke said she would like to see the pack finish 10 to 15 seconds faster, roughly around where Dakroub finished.

"We're definitely getting there and we're so versatile as far as different people being able to step it up," Lutzke said.

Rudert was attempting to break the 18-minute mark, but a slow start hindered her ability to position herself at the beginning of the race.

"You can only catch up so much," Lutzke said, pointing out that Rudert stood around 45th place at the mile mark, doing a good job of catching up toward the end of the race.

Twenty-three teams ran in the Gold Division race, won by Michigan State with 76 total points. Junior Sarah Squires felt the experience against a tougher and bigger field was good for the team.

"We proved to ourselves that we can be right up there with the best of them," Squires said. "This was the biggest race of the year so far and it was great to get the opportunity."

Both Lutzke and her players said the course was narrow at points, which at times proved to make the running very crowded.

"We needed that kind of a race because our upcoming meets will be just as competitive if not more so," Squires said.

CMU will compete in the Michigan Intercollegiates on Friday in Milford before traveling to Terre Haute, Ind., for NCAA Pre-Nationals on Oct. 18.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's time to admit your drafting mistakes

By Anthony Fenech • Free Press Special Writer

We’re about a quarter of the way through this fantasy football season – which means a lot to most of you and a lot more considering the fact NFL football around here is, well, pretty stale to say the least.

Some of you are 0-4, screening everyone’s calls from Bob in public relations to Uncle Bob. If you’re wondering if you should be in that panic state you’re in, yes, you definitely should be. Early on, your team has either been snake-bitten by injury or snake-bitten by a bad draft but if it’s the latter – it’s time to admit it.

Bad drafts happen. But 10 times out of 10, the owner that realizes that quicker will have a better chance to win. By now, you should be leaning a certain way on which players can still fulfill those numbers you drafted them for.

Take your Cleveland Browns, for example. This year’s sexy preseason fantasy team for their high-powered offense has produced just over 210 yards a game so far, dead last in the league. Derek Anderson hasn’t separated himself from the Brady Quinn rumors with a bye week looming and think about where you would have ranked those players with a bad Anderson or a raw Quinn from the beginning. To make matters worse, they have four bad matchups after the bye. So I guess what I’m saying is, trade your Browns.

And don’t expect to be getting face value for your trade bait. You’re going to have to bite the bullet and make your moves with what you have. If you’re 0-4, chances are those players aren’t as good as you thought and therefore, you will have less interest. The urgency to shake things up only increases in one-divison formats because you don’t have multiple games against your division mates to make up ground.

The sun hasn’t set on your season just yet, but the street lights are coming on. Here are some guy’s I’d target in return for your Big Name, No Gain players:

Your St. Louis Rams – Now for those of you that are desperate for a win, skip to my Lou over to the next one. The Rams are useless this week and another loss will shrink your comeback chances that much more. Jim Haslett is the interim head coach and his teams in New Orleans finished in the top 10 for touchdown passes in four of those five years. They put up pretty good offensive numbers, not including 2005, when they went 3-13 and Haslett was fired. I’d be surprised not to see Marc Bulger back onto the field after the bye and Steven Jackson owners have been rewarded for their patience. For what it’s worth, I’d take Torry Holt with open arms, too.

Ronnie Brown, RB, MIA – Now this is one hits close to home. You could say he’s my fantasy kryptonite. That guy you think of as your fantasy baby. Yeah, that five-touchdown day against the Patriots was an aberration and yeah, the Dolphins might still be bad, but when he is on the field and healthy, he straight up does work. And yeah, again, I can’t convince you that the single wing is going to keep working against NFL defenses, but he was on his way to fantasy player of the year last year before he got hurt without those plays. But I’m just throwing that out there.

Randy Moss, WR, NE – Alright, I’m treading a very fine line here because he fits that big name, no game description. But do you want to see what an owner is really made of? Replace Tom Brady with Matt Cassel and say, “Here’s your first-round pick.” Getting blown out by the Dolphins probably made for a fun New England bye week under Bill Belichick, and I’m not sold that Cassel – or any quarterback, that is – can’t hook up for Moss when all the guy does is get open. Unfortunately, Moss also has time ticking on his fuse ala Terrell Owens, and the more he struggles, the more cause for cover in the once-so-invincible Pats country.

Walking the Waiver Wire:

Deion Branch and Bobby Engram, WR, SEA – All signs point to a return for Matt Hasselbeck’s top two targets in Seattle. Timing might take a week or two but one could argue the passing game will flourish more than in the past with a solid running game thus far.

Mewelde Moore, RB, PIT – Rookie Rashard Mendenhall injured himself Monday night and will spend the rest of the season on the IR, Willie Parker’s status is still in doubt and whoever’s running in Pittsburgh will get plenty of touches, trying to open Ben Roethlisberger’s passing game up again.

Deuce McAllister, RB, NO – Deuce got loose in his first real game back, rushing 20 times for 73 yards and a touchdown, so it looks like he’s going to get his touches following another knee surgery. He could be useful in a flex spot right away but I wouldn’t draft him to handcuff Reggie Bush, because you’d have a hard time starting both running backs in such a pass-happy offense.

Steve Breaston, WR, ARI – If you’re a in a deep league and need a bye-week fill in, keep an eye on Anquan Boldin’s health after the scary helmet-to-helmet hit that had him carted off the field Sunday. If he doesn’t suit up, Breaston could put up decent numbers yet again: He had 122 receiving yards and nine receptions in Kurt Warner’s impressive air (472 passing yards) and ground (three fumbles lost) display on Sunday. And yes, that’s pretty cool that I wrote about Steve Breaston in terms of fantasy worth.

Rudert, women's cross country look to build off wins at Notre Dame

Issue date: 10/3/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

After a two-week hiatus from racing competitively, the women's cross country team will go up against some of the nation's top talent.

CMU travels to South Bend, Ind., today to compete in the 48-team Notre Dame Invitational.

The Chippewas will look to follow up their breakthrough performance two weeks ago at Western Michigan with another strong showing. They compete at 2 p.m. in the Gold Division race against 24 other teams, including Mid-American Conference opponents Ball State, Ohio and Western Michigan.

"It's going to be a lot different," said coach Karen Lutzke. "There's going to be more bodies and it's going to be a more competitive atmosphere. But it's the kind of race situation that we need to get used to."

Between both the Gold and Blue division races, 11 nationally-ranked teams will be competing, including No. 2 Florida State, No. 7 Princeton and No. 8 Michigan State - a team CMU faced twice earlier this season.

Junior Sarah Squires is looking forward to the opportunity to square off against top competition.

"The important thing for us this meet is to be competitive," she said. "With a race this big, we will have plenty of people to run with and to chase after."

In its last race on Sept. 19, CMU defeated Eastern and Western Michigan in Three Rivers. Senior Amanda Rudert placed first, ahead of four teammates who also placed in the top 10.

Lutzke said in the two weeks since their victory, practice has been running smoothly, with the girls alternating days of hard, medium and easy running intensity.

"You can't run hard every single day," Lutzke said. "A runner's body can only take so much pounding and so much hard running until it starts dragging."

Today's race will be held on the Notre Dame Golf Course, a flat course without many hills, generally quick for racers.

But Lutzke said there won't be much of an opportunity to move up, with more than 200 runners compared to the normal 40 the team is accustomed to.

Rudert, fresh off of her first collegiate victory, looks at the meet as an opportunity for the team to make a statement.

"As a team, we were frustrated with the recent regional rankings," she said. "So we are going into this race to prove that our team should be on that ranking list."