Coming off a successful season that ended with a 14th place finish at the national championship, the Wisconsin women’s cross country team have big shoes to fill in the 2017 season. Unranked virtually all season and an afterthought following a sixth place finish in the Big Ten, the Badger women averaged nearly a minute and thirty seconds faster per runner for the 6K at NCAA Great Lakes Regional, which qualified them for Nationals. The late season surge continued for Wisconsin at Nationals, where they finished in the top 15 over a number of teams that had defeated them earlier in the season. The Badgers will return five of their top seven from last year, and should be able to qualify for the National meet in Louisville this fall.

The team will be headed up by redshirt senior Sarah Disanza, who is looking to keep her momentum going from a strong track season. The New Jersey native finished seventh in the country in the 5,000m on the track this past outdoor season, cementing her status as a dark horse contender for the national championship in cross country. Disanza redshirted in her 2015 season of cross country and did not race until championship season began for the Badgers last year. Injuries have troubled her often, but she was the second overall finisher at Nationals in cross country in 2014, and the rest of the contenders for the individual title should be on high alert in Louisville if Disanza can stay healthy.

Looking to break into the ranks of the top tier of runners at Nationals will be sophomore Alicia Monson and redshirt sophomore Amy Davis. Both athletes were key contributors to the Badgers’ late-season charge last year and should benefit from the experience of performing at the top level of collegiate running. Monson broke out at the Regional meet last cross country season, beating out Disanza to lead the Badgers by finishing 11th overall. Her 16:04 5,000m time in outdoor track showed that she will be ready to mix it up with the best come championship season. Davis hung with Monson and Disanza at Regionals last fall, finishing 15th in the Great Lakes. Sixth in the 10,000m and seventh in the 5,000m at the Big Ten Championship in outdoor track, Davis is ready for the next level.

Redshirt sophomore Shaelyn Sorensen should also be a lock for earning a spot on the line for the Badgers when championship season rolls around. The 11th place finisher in the 10,000m at the Big Ten meet, Sorensen’s strong performances last cross country season at Regionals and Nationals should bode well for this upcoming year. Sophomore Emma Langer is the final returner from last year’s Nationals squad, and though she didn’t compete in outdoor track, her big-meet experience could help her secure another spot in the Top 7.

There are experienced Badgers that will be fighting to round out the Top Seven, a group that will likely include senior Jamie Shannon as well as redshirt juniors Lianna Mack and Erin Wagner. Shannon represented the Badgers at the Big Ten Championship and at Regionals in cross country in 2015, and Mack and Wagner will look to translate their steeplechase experience to fast times on the cross country course this year.

The Badgers could also receive contributions from their incoming freshman class, which includes some talented runners. Taylor Nicholson, an Indiana native, ran a 4:49 1,600m as a junior in high school, and her 2015 cross country 5,000m personal best of 17:38 should put her in contention for a contributing spot for Wisconsin. In-state recruits Izzy Owca and Megan Olshanski have run quick times as well and could emerge after adjusting to the collegiate game.

With the core of the last year’s team returning, the Badgers are not only in the position to return to the national championship but could challenge for a top ten finish.