Women's Cross Country Ranked 18th In Poll

Junior Paige Onweller (foreground) is among the Bulldogs' returnees this campaign
Junior Paige Onweller (foreground) is among the Bulldogs' returnees this campaign

The Ferris State University women's cross country team will open the 2009 campaign ranked as one of the nation's top 20 teams following the release of the United States Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division II Preseason Poll.

The Bulldogs are listed 18th nationally and third overall in the Midwest Regional Rankings heading into the season under head coach Steve Picucci, who was appointed to lead the FSU men's and women's track and field/cross country programs on a permanent basis last spring after a one-year stint as the program's interim head coach.

FSU joins preseason number two-ranked Grand Valley State as the only Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) schools in the top 25 poll.  Adams State (Colo.) holds the top spot followed by GVSU, Seattle Pacific (Wash.), Shippensburg (Pa.) and Augustana (S.D.) in the top five.

Another Midwest Region school, Southern Indiana, is ranked 14th nationally and maintains the number two spot in the regional poll behind regional favorite Grand Valley State.  FSU is third in the region and joined in the top five by Northwood and Bellarmine (Ky.) at the fourth and fifth positions, respectively.

The Midwest Region poll features both five GLIAC schools and five teams from the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC).  In addition to GVSU, FSU and Northwood, the regional listing includes Findlay (#7) and Wayne State (#9) from the GLIAC.

Ferris State wrapped up one of its most successful seasons ever with a 17th-place performance at the 2008 NCAA-II National Championships (11/22/08) held at Cooper's Lake Campground in Slippery Rock, Pa.

FSU qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships last season by placing third overall in the 2008 NCAA-II Midwest Regional Championships (Nov. 8) held on its own course at Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids, Mich.

Last year's third place regional effort was the program's best showing since an identical third-place finish at the 1990 NCAA-II Great Lakes Regional Championships. The 2008 campaign also represented only the third time in history the Bulldog women's cross country team competed at the national championships and was the program's first appearance since 1987.

This season, the Bulldogs' roster includes a returning All-American in junior Tina Muir (St. Albans, United Kingdom), who placed 12th overall at last year's nationals among a field of 189 runners to become only the second All-American in Bulldog women's cross country history and FSU's highest finisher ever at the national championships. Muir was clocked in 21:59 on the 6K course at the national meet.

Prior to Muir's performance at the national championships a year ago, the only other Bulldog female to earn All-America honors in cross country was Jenny Irwin, who came in 20th overall as an individual qualifer in 2005 at Pomona, Calif. Muir's performance topped Irwin's 20th-place effort for the highest finish ever by a FSU women's performer at the Division II Women's Cross Country Championships.

The Bulldogs are slated to open the 2009 season by taking part in the Vanderbilt Invitational hosted by Hope College on Saturday, Sept. 5, in Holland, Mich.  The meet is set for a 10:30 a.m. (ET) start.

FSU will host its annual home event, which was recently renamed the Ray Helsing Bulldog Invitational in honor of the program's former head coach, on Friday, Sept. 18, at FSU's Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids beginning at 4 p.m. (ET).