"And our goal this weekend really would be to, and it would probably be a pretty steep goal for us, to be a first-division team at this meet. Our one runner that we have though is someone that I think could be an All-Big Ten candidate. Katrina Rundhaug is a sophomore from Dodgeville. She transferred this year from Minnesota and she's led our team in every meet that we've had this year. So our hope for her is that she would be All-Big Ten and hopefully lead the team to a first-division finish."
Jerry Schumacher: "I think we're sitting in the same position we were last year. We're obviously excited to be heading into the championship part of the season, which is the Big Ten, NCAA regionals and . . . nationals. The team has matured where we have, I think, a great group of seniors on the team who will be kind of making their last run through a cross country championship season and they're very excited to kind of run for the Big Ten title as a team this year."
Jerry, is cross country like any other sport, if you're the top dog, everybody else, you've got a target on your back, everybody else is chasing you? Do you feel that way?
Schumacher: "Yeah, to a certain extent I think so. But, you know, in a way it's a good thing. We've been in this position before in the Big Ten where we feel like we're the team to beat at times, and it's not an unfamiliar position for the squad, so I think that there's nothing unusual about that for them heading into the Big Ten season this year."
Jerry, can you just tell us a little bit about how some of the top people have performed on the team, like Simon (Bairu) and Chris (Solinsky) and Matt (Tegenkamp)?
Schumacher: "Sure. I think our entire group this year … we've had an early season meet at kind of a big collegiate competition at the Roy Griak Invitational and we brought our entire squad there and they really performed well from top to bottom. So even, not just including, you know, the seniors or the guys that, Matt Tegenkamp who won the race or Simon Bairu was second, but from top to bottom the entire group ran really well there. So we're really excited to head into this part of the season and see where we finish it up."
Jerry, what's it like to have Tegenkamp healthy again after last year? And how hard was that for him last year coming off that 2002 season to have to sit out, and for you guys not to be able to have him, as loaded as you were last year?
Schumacher: "Yeah, he's really excited, obviously, to be back. He's 100% and excited to run. You know, last year it was tough. We lost him right before the Big Ten Championships and he wasn't able to compete the rest of the season. And I really felt our team lost a lot of momentum heading into this part of the season last year, and the guys did a good job filling in for him in the back, but we definitely lost some of the momentum of the championship part of the season, which, you know, we're ready to go this year for that. And he's very excited as well."
Jim, as far as your rebuilding, I know you don't have a crystal ball, but how do you think you're progressing, and how quickly do you think that women's cross country at Wisconsin can get back up to that upper echelon?
Stintzi: "I don't have a crystal ball. I think that this year was pretty much what I expected. It's a real small team and primarily walk-ons, and it's difficult to compete in the Big Ten with walk-ons. I think that we just, we need to sign two or three good kids next year. We've got everybody back from this team. This is, I don't mean to belittle their effort. They work hard. There's not a lot of older athletes who have a lot of talent right now, and we redshirted probably one of our top kids so that we'd do better next year."
"So I think if we can get a couple of good kids in from the state, and there are some good kids in state and Minnesota, in the Midwest, I think that we'll be competitive next year. And I think that we can, we're not going to be like Jerry's team in a couple of years, but I think that we can compete for the Big Ten title two or three years down the road if we get the right kids in here and we keep them healthy."
Jim, what has made Katrina such a fine addition, what about her performance?
Stintzi: "Well, I think that coming back to Madison, and she's from Dodgeville, so the opportunity maybe to compete for the Badgers. And I wouldn't say that she probably maybe would have wanted to do that out of high school, and having a year under her belt at Minnesota and knowing Big Ten competition, she came in here this summer with a lot of miles under her belt and really prepared well. And the fact that she could step into a Big Ten program and be the number-one runner, you know, albeit on not the greatest team, but the chance to be a leader, I think, has really helped her grow relatively quickly."
Jerry, is this the year for an NCAA title?
Schumacher: "Like Jim, I don't have a crystal ball either. Yeah, I don't know. We're in an exciting position being ranked No. 1 right now. That can also, you know, be kind of, well, I guess we're talking, it's the season of curses in baseball, so, you know, I don't know. We don't mind being in that position. We're going to go out there and do what, if we were ranked 20th, we'd do the same thing. So we're going to go out there and run our best and we'll see what happens on the day. But we're really excited to, like I said, to head into this part of the season."
How difficult is it to maintain the status that you've had these last several years? I mean, how do you go about that?
Schumacher: "Well, we've been really fortunate. We've just, we've had some really great kids who have come in and they follow the tradition. There's always been a great tradition, spanning all the way back, you know, to the early ‘70s where, even before that there were a lot of titles, Big Ten titles that were won in Wisconsin cross country. And these guys respect that tradition. They're excited to come here. It's a great school. We have tons of support within the department to get the job done that we need to. And I think when you put all those things together it, once you have it kind of rolling it's good."