Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pa.
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Tuesday, September 2, 2003
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Coming off the most successful year in program history, the Muhlenberg men’s cross country team has some reloading to do for the 2003 season, which started last Saturday at Marywood’s Labor Day
Alexander Hotz
Hotz has finished in the top 12 in five of eight career races.

The Mules set program bests by finishing second at the Centennial Conference Championships and fourth at the NCAA Mideast Regional last fall. They were just 11 points behind perennial champion Haverford at the CC meet and missed qualifying the entire team for the NCAA Championships by five points.

The team lost three of its top five runners, however, two to graduation and one to study abroad. Nevertheless, said senior Rich Kipp, “Our goal is the same that it’s been since I've been here – to finish first in the conference. We think that’s a reasonable goal, even with the people we lost.”

Muhlenberg’s top returner is senior Rob Uniszkiewicz, a two-time All-Region selection and 2002 NCAA qualifier. He finished second at Marywood for his fourth top-five finish in his last eight races. Right behind him was sophomore Alexander Hotz, who also made the All-Region team last year.

The Mules also return five other runners who earned varsity letters in 2002: Kipp, senior Nathan Horst, junior Christopher Martin and sophomores Patrick Breault and Brian McElroy. They are joined by a large and talented freshman class.

“We felt pretty good [about Marywood], considering that for the freshman, it was the first 8K race of their lives,” noted Kipp, who ran fifth for the Mules on Saturday. “Our preseason work has been a lot of mileage, so we didn’t go into the race with fresh legs.”

Muhlenberg returns to action this Friday night at the Lehigh Valley Championships and will co-host the Mule/Falcon Classic with Cedar Crest on Saturday, Sept. 13.

“We have a lot of talent; we just need to bring it all out,” said Kipp. “In cross country you need to bring out all the talent on the same day.”


If senior leadership is a key to success, the Muhlenberg women’s cross country team is poised to have a successful 2003 season.

Unlike the men’s squad, the women’s team returns virtually intact from 2002. The Mules have their top six finishers – including four seniors – from the NCAA Mideast Regional back and are looking forward to moving back up in the Centennial Conference standings. Last year, the team slipped to eighth place after improving from eighth to seventh to sixth the three previous years.

Stephanie Melka, one of the four seniors, expressed optimism for the 2003 season. “We just all had a bad race the one day of the conference meet,” she said in explaining last year’s finish. “We have a good team coming back this year, we have some strong freshmen and we have some athletes returning from injury.

“Our goals are to finish fourth in the conference and qualify several individuals for the NCAA
Erica Norey
Norey was the Mules’ fourth runner at Marywood, finishing in 21st place.
Championships,” she added. “They’re challenging goals, but I think they’re realistic.”

The team started out on the right foot, finishing third at Marywood’s Labor Day Invitational on Saturday. The Mules were 11 points behind first-place Scranton and, most significantly, trailed perennial power Moravian by just six points.

“It went really well,” said Melka of the opening meet. “We still have some people injured, but once we get everyone healthy we should definitely see some progress.”

Sophomore Karen Mount picked up right where she left off last year on Saturday, finishing in fourth place. She was 10th at the Centennial Conference Championships and 25th at the regional last year. Senior Diana Garretto, who has been one of the Mules’ top three runners throughout her career, finished ninth at Marywood, while junior Jenna Belisonzi, who missed the entire 2002 season with an injury, made her return a good one by crossing the finish line 10th.

Seniors Erica Norey and Gail Morris and sophomore Christy Grandjean round out the team’s slate of returnees.

The presence of the four seniors gives the Mules “a strong team dynamic,” according to Melka. “We know how we each race and we’re able to work together.”

That teamwork could lead to a dynamic season for Muhlenberg.

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Last updated September 2, 2003