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Northwestern Today: Cross Country and Women’s Track & Field

“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” – Jesse Owens

Progress has been the goal for the Rangers of cross country the last few seasons, and their hard work and determination are finally starting to pay off.

“Our cross country program is climbing and we’re closing that gap. With such few men’s teams we’re closing the distance to dip into the top now and the women keep jumping spots. We have to keep moving forward. As long as we do that, we’ll move into that top tier,” head coach Jill Lancaster remarked.

Before becoming the head cross country coach at Northwestern, Lancaster led the Division I program at Troy University from 2008 to 2014.

Prior to her position at Troy, Lancaster was the co-head men's and women's coach at the University of Oklahoma from 1997 to 2005. Her first head coaching position came in 1988 when she held the position at Toledo University. She also served as an assistant coach at both the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

“I initially left the sport to come back and help with the family farm, but I am so thankful that Northwestern gave me the opportunity to come back and start coaching again. I have deep ties to this region and I feel blessed to be back.”

This past spring, the Lady Rangers of Track & Field competed in their first season after a 30+ year absence in the sport. The addition of track and field increased the number of Division II sports offered at Northwestern to 12 and is the seventh women's varsity sport.

“With track being a first-year program, to come away with Conference Champions and GAC records, it’s pretty special. You don’t dream of that just starting a program.”

With “up” being the only direction to go, Lancaster knows some ways to progress her programs and get an even bigger payout.

“We need to get depth. There are over 20 events on the track and if you only have 25 women, that’s not enough. That’s one per event. We need to grow and obviously, talent will get better as we progress. I’m looking forward to this next year because we have laid our groundwork. Now we can start building.”

As a seasoned coach, Lancaster sees only progress for the outlook of her programs

“Facilities don’t dictate how good we’re going to be. Shoes don’t dictate how well we’re going to do. Our effort and our mentality will dictate us being a top program. We attract students that want to make that history and bring success to Northwestern. I couldn’t be more pleased with the direction we’re headed.”

“I am so pleased with the path that Coach Lancaster has put our programs on.  She is so dedicated to the total student-athlete’s success.  She wants them to grow as young adults, stay on course to graduation and be the best athlete possible.  Our programs are growing and she is the leader that they need,” stated Athletic Director Brad Franz

“I couldn’t ask for a better relationship with this university and community. Northwestern produces alumni who are very loyal and attached to this university and we appreciate their constant support so very much.”

As each program continues to progress and grow, there’s no telling the success Lancaster and her athletes can produce.  



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