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Aug. 29, 2012

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—The Virginia women’s cross country team opens the 2012 season 6 p.m. Friday (Aug. 31) at the Virginia Tech Invitational in Blacksburg, Va. The Cavaliers are coming off a 2011 season where they won their third NCAA Southeast Regional title in four years and placed 20th at the NCAA Championships.

“The expectations with this team are high,” Virginia head women’s cross country coach Todd Morgan said. “We know it’s a tremendous league and this team has had a lot of success in the past, but we enjoy being looked at as a team that is expected to do well and we accept the challenge.”

The women’s squad loses its two runners at the from the NCAA Championships in All-American Morgane Gay and Academic All-American Anna Corrigan, but returns three members that scored at the national meet, including sophomore Chelsea Ley (Woolwich Township, N.J.), who earned All-Southeast Region honors in 2011, junior Katherine Walker (Stafford, Va.) and sophomore Kathleen Stevens (Blacksburg, Va.).

In addition, UVa returns junior Barbara Strehler (Richmond, Va.) who was an All-Atlantic Coast Conference honoree after placing 14th at the conference meet where UVa placed third.

Virginia also sees the return of graduate student Catherine White (Roanoke, Va.), who finished fourth at the 2009 national cross country meet and placed 10th in the 10,000 meters at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

“Morgane and Anna are two that did a lot for the program and you can never replace that, but we’ve had a bunch of people step up,” Morgan said. “Obviously, Catherine White getting a sixth year is a huge help too. We’re excited to use last year as a benchmark and step up from that.”

Joining the Cavalier squad are two transfers that should make an immediate impact, senior Vicky Fouhy (Buckinghamshire, England) from the University of Birmingham and junior Dena O’Brien (Pelham, Ala.) from the College of Charleston. Fouhy won the English Under-20 national title in the 1,500m in 2009, while O’Brien was the 2010 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year and won five SoCon track and field individual titles.

In addition, freshman Audrey Batzel (Virginia Beach, Va.) joins the team coming off of a 10th-place finish in the mile at the 2012 New Balance Indoor Nationals and a third-place finish in the 3,200 meters at the Virginia High School League AAA State Championships.

“Our two transfers, Dena (O’Brien) and Vicky (Fouhy), we expect to come in and be players for us right off the bat,” Morgan said. “We added one first-year, Audrey Batzel, who is doing great, had a phenomenal summer and had a great first week of practice.”

Following the Virginia Tech Invitational on Aug. 31, the Cavaliers will host the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational on Sept. 22., which will see teams from Oklahoma, California, Wisconsin and Kentucky in action. Three weeks later, Virginia will travel to Madison, Wis., for the Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Oct. 12, which will feature some of the top teams in the country.

The ACC Championships will be hosted by Virginia Tech on Oct. 27 in Blacksburg, before the Cavaliers host their second meet of the season, the Virginia/Panorama Farms Open on Nov. 3. Six days later, the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships will be contested in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 9, while Louisville, Ky., will host the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships on Nov. 17.

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