CULLOWHEE, N.C. - The Western Carolina men's and women's cross country teams will travel to Spartanburg, S.C., for the 2017 Southern Conference Cross Country Championships hosted by Wofford. The 2017 Southern Conference Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships are set for Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Milliken Research Center. The event will begin with the women’s 5K race at 10 a.m., followed by the men’s 8K race at 10:45 a.m. An awards ceremony, which will honor the top team and individual performances, will follow the conclusion of the men’s race.
The Catamount men and women were selected to finish seventh in the 2017 preseason coaches polls after they each finished seventh at last year’s championship.
The Catamount cross country rosters feature talented young student-athletes with just one male and one female senior on the two squads.
The WCU women have competed in three 5k events this season with junior Kaitlyn Lingard leading the squad with a season-best time of 18:15.13. WCU’s next six best times have come from junior Christina Nikolaou (18:26), sophomore Lindsey Trotter (18:39), sophomore Shawnda Martin (18:41), senior Madison Goode (19:18), sophomore Kayla Deaton (20:20) and freshman Tori Martin (21:16).
The Catamount men have seen action in two 8k events this season with sophomore Isaiah Hanna leading the way with a time of 25:42. Others who may compete for WCU’s top-five include sophomore Tyler Robakiewicz (25:57), junior Jordan Bostian (26:08), sophomore Justin Tucker (26:13), sophomore Ian Reesh (26:14), junior Harrison Conner (26:41) and sophomore Terry Young (26:51).
Furman will look to continue its reign as the SoCon defending champions. The Paladin men and women, who were both selected as preseason favorites by the league’s coaches, have won the past four SoCon Championships and both teams have placed inside the top 10 in all six events in which they have competed this year.
On the men’s side, the Paladins boast the top 11 times at the 8k distance, with Aaron Templeton leading the way with a time of 23:40.07 at the Greater Louisville Classic. Templeton, along with teammates Tanner Hinkle, Quintin McKinnish and Josh Brickell, have all been named SoCon Runner of the Week at least once this season. Furman also returns reigning SoCon Runner of the Year Frank Lara, who won the individual title at the 2016 SoCon Championship with a time of 23:16.44.
Samford’s Arsène Guillorel will challenge the Paladin runners, having placed in the top five in the past two SoCon Championships, including an individual title at the 2015 championship. The senior’s fastest time this year came on Oct. 13 at the Crimson Classic, when Guillorel stopped the clock at 24:43.02.
In the women’s race, Samford’s Karisa Nelson, who won the individual title in last year’s championship, is the fastest returner from the 2016 SoCon Championship. Nelson ran a personal best at last year’s championship, stopping the clock at 16:22.62 to secure her second consecutive top-10 finish at the SoCon Championship. Furman’s Allie Buchalski holds the fastest time in the 5k distance this season, finishing in 16:42.19 at the Greater Louisville Classic in September. The Paladins hold three of the top five fastest times this season at that distance and have claimed five of the seven runner of the week awards this season.
Wofford’s Hannah Steelman burst on to the scene in her first collegiate season, as the freshman has claimed two individual titles this season and finished the Eye Opener on Sept. 1 in 17:37.50, the ninth-fastest time at the 5k distance in the conference this season.
The team competitions will feature a number of teams challenging the four-time defending-champion Paladins. On the men’s side, Samford was slated second in the 2017 preseason coaches’ poll, followed by ETSU, which was picked third and received one first-place vote in the preseason poll. Chattanooga could also vie for the overall title as it finished fourth in the 2016 SoCon Championship and was picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll. VMI was selected fourth. For the women, Samford was selected second in the preseason poll after finishing second at the 2016 SoCon Championship. ETSU and Chattanooga were selected third and fourth, respectively.