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Cross Country Hosting 50th Annual Les Duke

A pack of Purple Roos runs shirtless in the late Summer sun. Photograph by Andrew Kelley.

By Aniela Wendt

Following a very successful 2010 season, both the Men and Women’s Cross Country teams hold high ambitions for the upcoming year.
The men’s team, standing 33 strong, enters the 2011 season prepared to build on last year’s NCAA Division III Central Region title and trip to the national meet.

Returning to the team is Captain and Nationals qualifier Erik Figge ’13, Frank Canady ’14, who took 20th at the 2010 regional meet, Ben Tyler ’14, who took 51st at the regional meet and Dan Krauss ’12, former Midwest Conference Champion.
“We have a very good group, they’ve done their training in the summer,” said Coach Will Freeman.

The squad will face their first real test this Saturday, Sept. 10 Grinnell’s own Les Duke Invitational, which will be run at the Oak Acres Golf Club.

“[The Les Duke Invitational was a] great experience last year, we’re really excited to go back and compete,” Canady said.

Looking ahead, the Purple Roos are excited for the Roy Griak Invitational, hosted by the University of Minnesota on Sept. 24 and the Wisconsin-Oshkosh Brooks Invitational, in Okskosh, Wisc. on Oct. 15. The Roos took fifth last year at the Griak Invitational, a performance that helped them qualify for the NCAA Division III National Meet.

“I think this team is really developing to where they expect to be at the National Meet every year,” Will Freeman said. “[We have] three goals—win conference, get back to Nationals and improve at Nationals.”
The Grinnell Women’s Cross Country team is also entering the 2011 season with an ambitious mindset.
“Conference is sort of the major goal,” said Coach Evelyn Freeman. “We had a string of five Conference Championships, and then we lost it, and then we won it back, and then we lost it so it’s time to win it back again.”

The 45 Skull Crushers make up the largest squad in program history. A talented group of 15 first years joins the team this year.

“We have a pretty young team,” Evelyn Freeman said. “That’s always a nice thing to have when you’re thinking about the future.”

The first years are adapting easily.

“The first years have bonded especially quickly,” Miriam Clayton ’15 said. “The team has been amazing so far—very welcoming, friendly and accepting.”

Within this group of capable first-years are Diana Seer ’15 and Eloise Miller ’15, both are expected to have a great impact on the team.

“Both arrived at Grinnell with great credentials and our goal for them is to take some time adjusting to college,” Evelyn Freeman said.
The squad returns all their top runners this season.

“I think that competitively, we have some real potential this season,” Sachi Graber ’12 said. “We have a few new runners who will score for the team, as well as many returners who have improved.”

Among the group of new-to-the-team runners is Stephanie Rouse ’13. Already, she’s experienced success in the season, placing fourth at the meet last weekend and being honored as Midwest Conference Cross Country athlete of the week.

Not new to the team, but new to the varsity scoring ranks is senior Katherine Edeker ’12.

“Kate put in a lot of miles this summer and has made a big jump this year to be one of our top scoring runners,” Coach Freeman said.
Overall, the Skull Crushers seemed poised for success.

“We’re a pretty talented and young group,” Evelyn Freeman said, “I think we have a lot of talent on the team this year—I think we’re a better team this year than we were last year.”

The teams are currently preparing for the Les Duke Invitational Meet. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Les Duke Invitational carries with it a strong sense of tradition and is at least one runner’s favorite meets.

“[Les] Duke is probably one of my favorite days all semester. It’s a chance to race with the team and with support from our friends,” Graber said. “There’s definitely a positive atmosphere, especially since we get to see some cross country alums who come back for the event.”

The Les Duke Invitational is run on a wonderful spectator course that provides shuttle buses for students to attend the meet and support fellow student-athletes. The meet begins at 10 a.m. and is held at Oakland Acres Golf Course.

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    Nancy Duke Kissane '52Sep 11, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    I wish I could have been present at the 50th anniversary of the Les Duke Invitational. I’m sure mention was made at the time of the races Sat., Sept. 10, but I take this opportunity to inform others that the race is named for my father, G. Lester Duke, who graduated from Grinnell College in 1925! He was a long time coach at the College, Dean of Men, and friend to many Grinnellians. Congratulations to the Grinnell teams!