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Sometimes, less is better. 

The Oregon State women’s cross-country team heads into its season with a streamlined 15-athlete roster and a solid nucleus of returnees to build upon.

The Beavers return eight women who ran in the 2013 Pac-12 Championships and six of the eight who competed in the ensuing NCAA Regional, the team’s top two meets. Add four incoming freshmen and several upperclassmen coming off a redshirt season into the mix and it’s easy to see why coach Kelly Sullivan is confident the program’s steady growth since its 2004 revival after an 18-year hiatus will continue.

“We don’t have large numbers like we used to but we have talent and depth,” Sullivan said. “The talent we have within the group is giving us some flexibility. We are more quality-oriented. It’s the smallest group I’ve ever had, which is what we’ve been working toward.

“On paper we have a great group returning and freshmen coming off great high school cross-country seasons. In theory we’re bring back a lot of experience and talent.”

The Beavers open the season at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Bill Dellinger Invitational at Alton Baker Park in Eugene. Their lone home meet is the Beaver Classic at Avery Park, set for 4 p.m. on Oct. 24.

The potential redshirting of top returnee Kinsey Gomez and 2013 regular Kristiane Width could negatively impact this year’s team. Gomez led OSU in 2013 by placing 23rd at the Pac-12 Championships and 47th at the NCAA West Regional; Width was 68th and 127th, respectively.

But Sullivan is building for the long haul and willing to negotiate a few temporary speed bumps to reach the final destination. A final call will be made in late September, after a two-week preseason camp at Sun River and another week of workouts in Corvallis leading up to the Oct. 4 Washington Invitational.

“If we ran everybody we would be really, really good,” Sullivan said. “But we will make some decisions based on what’s best for them, and based on where we want to be next year and the year after.”

Sullivan is reasonably sure that juniors Adrienne Demaree (78th Pac-12, 177th regional) and Aly Nielson (88th Pac-12) and sophomores Emily Weber (62nd NCAAs), Holly Cavalluzzo (70 Pac-12, 89 NCAAs), Monica Anderson, Morgan Anderson and Maureen Tremblay will run this fall. Morgan Anderson and Tremblay redshirted in 2013.

“Weber and Cavalluzzo both had good freshmen seasons, and we are really excited about Tremblay,” Sullivan said. “She made a full recovery from a hip injury and we’re real excited to have her back.

“The improvement Nielson, Demaree and Morgan Anderson had last spring really bodes well. (Junior) Kira Kelly is very focused on competing. She’s back healthy. More than likely freshman Sam McKinnon will compete. She’s extremely talented.”

A Meridian, Idaho, native, McKinnon was the Idaho Gatorade Girls XC Runner of the Year and won the Class 5A state championship for Mountain View High by nearly 40 seconds. She then placed fifth at the Nike Cross Northwest championships and 22nd at the Nike Cross Country Nationals.

Freshman Nicole Goecke of Prairie High in Vancouver, Washington, could also be an immediate factor. She was third at the state 3A championships in 2013 and seventh in 2012.

The new Whyte track will also play a major role in making the Beavers better.

In the past, Sullivan had to decide if that day’s workout would be at the Corvallis High track (working around CHS’s schedule), or elsewhere. Now the Beavers can start a workout at the Whyte oval, then easily transition to nearby Avery Park, Willamette Park or the bike path, or vice-versa.

“It will help a ton, it’s made all the difference in the world,” Sullivan said. “Now we have four locations you can use in one workout. The track was always the one big piece that was missing.”

The coaching staff has a streamlined look for the moment, with the loss of assistants Laura Harmon and Travis Floeck to the head-coaching positions at TCU and Idaho, respectively. Former Michigan all-American/2012 Olympian Geena Lara will serve as a volunteer assistant, complementing holdover assistant Collin Cram.

The two new coaches may not arrive until late September, depending on how quickly the hiring process goes. They will have more of a track & field background as OSU evolves from a distance-oriented operation into a complete program.

OSU placed 11th at the Pac-12 Championships and 15th of 32 teams at the NCAA West Regional last season and did not advance to the NCAA Championships. Key losses from that team were Sandra Martinez (56th Pac-12, 84th regionals) and Taylor Nowlin (80th Pac-12, 172nd regionals).

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