A solid nucleus of returning veterans will be key to the success of the HopeCollege women's cross country team in 2009.

A solid nucleus of returning veterans will be key to the success of the HopeCollege women's cross country team in 2009.

The 2008 Flying Dutch finished second in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) and ninth in the Great Lakes Regional of NCAA Division III.

Coach Mark Northuis begins his 22nd season at the helm of the Hope cross country program.  Under his tenure, the Flying Dutch finished third or higher every season in the MIAA standings.

The pre-season roster of 33 athletes includes 19 returning letterwinners. There are 11 freshmen, seven sophomores, nine juniors and six seniors.

The  tri-captains are senior Jacqueline Beeler of Plymouth (Plymouth HS), junior Emily Fischer of Naperville, Ill. (Naperville Central HS), and senior Joanne Gabl of Saline, Mich. (Saline HS).

A year ago four Hope underclassmen received All-MIAA second team honors. Forming the nucleus of this year's team will be sophomore Kate Nelson of Williamston (Williamston HS),  sophomore Kelly Luftkin of Houghton (Houghton HS), sophomore
Karlyn Sikma of Grand Rapids (North Pointe Christian HS), and junior Emily Fischer, Hope (sophomore from Naperville, Ill./ Central HS). Returning junior Susan Savasky of Berkley (Berkley) was an All-MIAA second team honoree in 2007. Hope's top four finishes in the 2008 NCAA Great Lakes Regional return -- Kate Nelson, Karlyn Sikma, Kelly Luftkin and Susan Savasky.

Other returning letterwinners include sophomore Alyssa Ambrose of Okemos (Okemos HS), junior Sarah Anthony of Mt.Pleasant (Mt. Pleasant HS), junior Claire Bird of New Paltz, N.Y. (New Paltz HS), junior Kate Brundige of Vicksburg (Vicksburg HS), sophomore Salome Emmanuel of Wheaton, Ill. (Wheaton North HS), sophomore Katrina Gobrogge of Napoleon, Ohio (Archbold HS), senior Sara Gosses of Amherst, Ohio (Amherst Steele HS), junior Jessie Hunter of Wheaton, Ill. (Wheaton Academy), senior Emma Lucas of Cadillac (Cadillac HS), junior Andrea Miller of Algonquin, Ill. (Dundee-Crown HS), junior Elle Munoa of Holland (West Ottawa HS), and senior Faith Whitehouse of Manton (Manton HS).

The Flying Dutch also excelled in the classroom in 2008-09 receiving Team Academic All-America honors from the College Cross Country Coaches Association for the 19th consecutive team and the MIAA Team GPA award for the 11th straight year.

Hope will host two meets this fall, the season-opening Hope Invitational on September 5 and the MIAA Jamboree on September 26.