By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
Amanda Vorthmann spent the early part of her college cross country career excelling at Iowa Central Community College. As a sophomore, Vorthmann was given the award for Female Athlete of the Year and was voted the Most Inspirational and the Hardest Worker by her teammates.
A medical redshirt in 2010 prevented Vorthmann from carrying that success over and having an immediate impact in Omaha. But when 2011 came around Vorthmann wasn’t about to let anymore opportunities slip by.
In her first full season as a Mav, the Oakland, Iowa native finished as the top UNO runner in six of seven meets and won the last two – the Yellowjacket Classic in Lamoni, Iowa and the Sioux Falls Invite in Harrisburg, S.D.
In her senior season, Vorthmann will be counted on as one of the leaders on the Mavs’ largest cross country team in school history.
“You want to show good leadership, you want to cheer for others, you want to set a good example, help get water for them [and] making sure they’re stretching and icing like they should be,” Vorthmann said. “You start at the bottom and you work your way up to be a leader.”
“By the time you do it at practice a lot then you can come to a meet, they kind of look up to you about who’s the leader.”
Vorthmann is one of just three seniors and a junior who make up only four upperclassmen on the 2012 UNO cross country roster. In 2006, the team had just five members.
Since then the squad has continued to grow to 17 for 2012, the largest team ever in Omaha. Last year the Mavs welcomed five freshmen to push the number to 11, double digits for just the second time ever.
This fall UNO welcomes six freshmen and one sophomore. Kristin Rogers was one of those newcomers last year.
“I think it’s a lot of fun having a big class cause we’re all super close,” Rogers said. “I’m rooming with three of the girls that are in my class and I think they’ll (the freshmen) be close too and it should be fun.”
A year later Rogers is thankful she had a teammate like Vorthmann around when she arrived on campus. The running may be an individual part of the sport but teammates provide a support for adjusting to college competition and the routines that come with training at a higher level.
“It’s definitely a lot higher mileages, probably running double the distances I was ever running in high school,” Rodgers said. “That took a lot of getting used to. We do a lot of things here I didn’t have to do in high school.”
“We have required ice baths and certain stretching routines and we lift once in a while and we do abs and hurdle drills.”
Rogers adjusted rather nicely to the higher mileages and ice baths. In her freshman season she competed in all seven meets, earning three top 10 finishes and had the highest place for a Mav at the UNO/Creighton Classic.
Outside of Vorthmann, fellow seniors Brittany Phillips and Nicole Behm and junior Kayla Fenske, Rogers’ outstanding freshmen season means she’ll be looked upon for leadership as well. But they’re also all going to be pushed by a talented incoming class.
Kristen Carmichael comes to Omaha out of Corning, Iowa as a four-year letterwinner and a conference and district champion for the track team in the 1,500 meters and the 3,000 meters. Karo Garcia joins the Mavs from Columbus, Neb. as another four-year letterwinner, a part of Columbus’ school record two-mile relay team and a letterwinner in swimming as a senior.
Michelle Gatewood from Millard North was a three-year letterwinner in track and cross country. Jackie Mezick earned the Bellevue Leader’s award for runner of the year in cross country at Bellevue East.
Carolyn Newhouse is a back-to-back conference champion from Linn-mar High School in Marion, Iowa. Kourtney Ostentoski was all-region all three years she ran cross country for Bedford High School in Temperance, Mich.
Avery Schmidt from Centerville, Iowa was first-team all conference as a junior and a senior. But Vorthmann says there’s more to being successful in college cross country than trying to translate high school success.
“As a fifth year (senior), I’ve found that looking at the younger freshmen and sophomores you’re still getting used to being away from your parents, cooking your own food or making it or going to the cafeteria, whatever it is,” Vorthmann said. ‘You’re still getting used to this thing so it’s nice to have someone older to help you.”
“Our coaches do as much as they can but you need the team, our family members to help tell us ‘hey you need to make sure you’re doing these things.'”