Kate Neeper is not exactly Pops Mensah-Bonsu.
She’s never been on ESPN, she certainly has never been ceremonially crowned the mayor of D.C. and her last name doesn’t have anything to do with killing whales (at least we don’t think).
Like Mensah-Bonsu, on a slightly smaller scale, Neeper is breathing life into a program that has otherwise received very little attention from GW students: women’s cross-country.
With the help of a strong freshman contingent, Neeper and the women’s cross-country team are on track for one of their best seasons in recent history. Under the guidance of their youthful and dedicated coach, Brian Beil, a former GW runner, the Colonials are showing signs of having a breakthrough year in the Atlantic 10, where they have struggled to compete in past years.
Neeper, a graduate student in the Elliot School of International Affairs, is a transfer from the University of Southern California. As a member of the Trojans’ squad, she was Pacific 10 women’s cross-country all-academic first team in 2005.
Starting fresh on a new squad, Neeper said she has experienced no friction with her new teammates.
“My teammates have been amazing – they’ve really accepted me off the bat,” Neeper said. “I hope I can encourage my teammates to take a long-term focus, keep working hard and watch their times drop.”
Beil has recognized the immediate impact that Neeper has had on the team.
“She’s meshed really well with the other girls,” he said. “She leads by example, instead of just barking orders. She’s made a tremendous impact.”
That tremendous impact can be seen on the course as well. Neeper has finished in the top 10 in each of the team’s past two events, taking fourth at the Towson Invitational Sept. 9 and finishing eighth at the Salty Seadog Invitational Sept. 16. As the team’s top finisher in both events, Neeper is helping the Colonials fight to prove they are a force to be reckoned with in the A-10.
Both Beil and Neeper are very optimistic about the team’s chances this year.
“I think we’ve got a lot of talent,” Beil said. “We look to be in the top five in the A-10.”