Women's Cross Country will hit their 2015 schedule having lost only three seniors to graduation from the 2014 group, but I think that trio's absence could loom larger than one might think. Maggie Russell, Gabby Leo, and Chrissy Clarkin weren't always in UB's top five, but they did account for the Bulls' third, fifth, and sixth finishers at the MAC Championships.
Corinne Birchard is fast and only a junior, but she'll never count for more than one of UB's times in a race. Before we get to her later in this series, today highlights a fellow junior whose consistency will be key in replacing three seniors from the Buffalo pack.
In 2014, her first year with the team, Amy Shaw ran in all of UB's races, only once finishing lower than fourth. At the Iona Meet of Champions, in which UB finished sixth and after which the Bulls entered the USATFCCCA Northeast Regional Rankings, Shaw was the fourth finisher for UB, just 30 seconds after the leader. And after running successive season-bests at the 6K distance in the MAC Championships and NCAA Northeast Regional to close out her season, Shaw was a front-runner for the track team, as well, slower than only the record-setting Wheeler in the mile and 3000 in indoor competition and in the 5000 on the outdoor track.
While Birchard and (usually) Melinda Wheeler are probably good for the top spots among the leaders, it's important for UB to have that bellwether in the middle of its pack as well. It's reasonable to expect fellow juniors Meagan Hopkins and Bailey Kemp and senior Meaghan Wessel to regularly join her in the scoring groups, but none were as regular in the top five last year.
Though then a sophomore, last year Shaw was a newcomer to the team after her prep career at Rangitoto College in New Zealand. Her steady presence in UB's scoring five was a pleasant surprise for a newcomer, but this year bodes well for low, competitive times and Buffalo's depth beyond one or two runners.