CULLOWHEE, N.C. - The Western Carolina men's and women's cross country teams will travel to Greenville, S.C., for the 2015 Southern Conference Cross Country Championships hosted by Furman. The 2015 SoCon Championships are scheduled to take place on Saturday, October 31, at the Furman Golf Course. The event begins with the men’s 8K race at 10 a.m., followed by the women’s 5K at 10:45 a.m.
The Catamounts men were selected to finish fifth and the women seventh in the 2015 preseason coaches poll after both finishing sixth at last year’s championship.
Both the WCU men’s and women’s rosters feature a strong contingent of freshmen runners who will be looked at to lead the Catamounts at this season’s championship.
Freshman Liam Brooks currently has the 17th fastest 8K time in the Southern Conference this season which he clocked at the UNC Asheville Invitational. He along with junior JC Cornett will be the Catamounts to watch out for on the men’s side as they have led the team all season. Freshmen Jordan Bostian, Caleb Albrecht, Jordan Kokoska, Joel Freeman and Harrison Conner, junior Tommy Connell and senior Jamie Bigby have all placed in WCU’s top-five this season and could be in the mix on Saturday.
On the women’s side this season has been all about freshman Kaitlyn Lingard. She has won two individual titles this season and led the Catamounts in all five races so far. She currently has the 13th fastest 5K time in the Southern Conference this season after her performance at the UNC Asheville Invitational. The Catamounts have had four different second place finishers on their squad over the five races this season but runners to keep an eye on include freshmen Emma Hand, Jada Blake, Christina Nikolaou and Brittany Williams, sophomores Madison Goode and Laney Browder and senior Kaitlyn Shetler who have all scored points for the Catamounts this season.
Host Furman will look to continue its reign as SoCon champion. The Paladin men and women, who were both selected as preseason favorites by the league’s coaches, have won the past two SoCon Championships.
On the men’s side, the Paladins feature a strong group led by junior Tanner Hinkle, who has earned runner of the week three times this season. Hinkle, along with returning teammates Troy Reeder and Aaron Templeton, placed in the top five at the 2014 SoCon Championship. VMI senior Avery Martin was the best non-Furman finisher last year, crossing the line in 10th place. Martin, along with Samford sophomore Arsène Guillorel, who posted a 13th-place finish last year, should be in the mix for the men’s crown.
In the women’s race, competitors will be trying to dethrone 2014 champion Allie Buchalski, a sophomore from Furman. The Johns Creek, Ga., native has shown no signs of slowing down this year. She claimed three runner of the week honors this fall and will look to add to her accolades on Saturday. ETSU senior Katie Hirko, who finished third last year and trailed Buchalski by only six seconds, should compete for the title. Saturday’s race will also feature the return of Chattanooga senior Teghan Henderson. The 2013 champ missed last year’s championship due to injury but will surely be looking to reclaim her individual crown.
The team competitions will feature a number of teams trying to take down the defending-champion Paladins. The ETSU men and the Chattanooga women – both second in 2014 – could vie for the overall titles. Samford should also be in contention for both team titles. The Bulldog women were picked to finish second in the preseason coaches poll, while the men were selected to finish third.