CULLOWHEE, N.C. - The Western Carolina men's and women's cross country teams will travel to Chattanooga, Tenn., for the 2016 Southern Conference Cross Country Championships hosted by UTC. The 2016 Southern Conference Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships are set for Saturday, Oct. 29, at Camp Jordan in Chattanooga, Tenn. The event will begin with the men’s 8K race at 10 a.m., followed by the women’s 5K race at 10:45 a.m. An awards ceremony, which will honor the top team and individual performances, will follow the conclusion of the women’s race.
The Catamounts men were selected to finish seventh and the women sixth in the 2016 preseason coaches poll after finishing sixth and tied for fifth, respectively, at last year’s championship.
Both the WCU men’s and women’s rosters feature a strong contingent of freshmen and sophomore runners who will be looked at to lead the Catamounts at this season’s championship.
Sophomore Liam Brooks and freshman Justin Tucker will be the Catamounts to watch out for on the men’s side as they have led the team all season. Sophomores Caleb Albrecht, Jordan Bostian and Harrison Conner along with freshmen Isaiah Hanna, Jordan Kokoska, Tyler Robakiewicz and Adam Urbaniuk could all be in the mix on Saturday to score points for the Catamounts.
On the women’s side, this season has once again been all about sophomore Kaitlyn Lingard. She currently has the 16th fastest 5K time in the Southern Conference this season after her performance at the Asheville Cross Country Challenge. Seniors Katarina Ruehl and Laney Browder, junior Madison Goode, sophomores Jada Blake and Trinity Wiles along with freshmen Kayla Deaton, Shawnda Martin, Lindsey Trotter and Sydney Winchel will all battle for the coveted five scoring spots on Saturday.
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 three SoCon Championships.
On the men’s side, the Paladins feature a strong group led by junior Frank Lara, who garnered SoCon Runner of the Week honors three times this season. Lara, along with teammates Josh Brickell, Ben Bryant and Mason Coppi all have top-five times in the league on an 8K course this season. Samford junior Arsène Guillorel will look to defend his individual title after posting the top time (24:10.6) at the 2015 SoCon championship. Guillorel also has the top time by a SoCon competitor on an 8K course this year after completing the Chile Pepper Festival race in Fayetteville, Ark., in 24:02.67 on Oct. 1.
In the women’s race, Furman’s Laura Miller, who placed third in last year’s championship, is the fastest returner from the 2015 SoCon championship. Miller ranks in the top five among all SoCon competitors on a 5K course this season after finishing in 17:53.29 at the Eye Opener Invitational in Spartanburg, S.C., on Sept. 2. Teammate and freshman Savannah Carnahan has been nothing short of impressive this season, capturing four SoCon Runner of the Week awards in 2016. She also ranks third this year among all women’s competitors on a 5K course after crossing the finish line in 17:25.95 at the Eye Opener Invitational. Samford junior Karisa Nelson, who placed eighth in last year’s SoCon Championship race, shaved nearly two minutes off of her 2015 championship time of 18:36.92 with a finish of 16:38.99 at the Chile Pepper Festival, the top time by a SoCon runner on a 5K course this season.
The team competitions will feature a number of teams challenging the three-time defending-champion Paladins. On the men’s side, ETSU was slated second in the 2016 preseason coaches’ poll, followed by Samford, who was picked third and received one first-place vote in the preseason poll. VMI could also vie for the overall title as the Keydets finished second in the 2015 SoCon Championship. The Chattanooga women will look to defend their backyard as they were voted second in the coaches’ preseason poll and finished second for the league title in 2015.