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    SFA Set For SLC Championships
    The Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks will run in the 2012 SLC Cross Country Championships on Friday morning in Beaumont.
    The Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks will run in the 2012 SLC Cross Country Championships on Friday morning in Beaumont.

    Oct. 25, 2012

    NACOGDOCHES, Texas -The Stephen F. Austin cross country teams will take their talents to Beaumont in search of a league title at the 2012 Southland Conference Cross Country Championships on Friday morning at Tyrrell Park.

    Both the Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks have shown well in pre-conference races, but will need to summon their best races if either expect to leave Beaumont with a conference title.

    Meanwhile, then men will be gunning for their first title since 2005 and will have to get past Lamar to do so. The Cardinals will be in search of their seventh consecutive title themselves.

    "It's going to be very intense and very competitive," cross country coach Cody Clarksaid. "Both of our teams know what to expect and know what it will take to be successful on Friday. They've trained hard and trained well up to this point and now it's just a matter of going out there and executing what they know needs to be done."

    Senior Lauren Smith will also be trying to make history herself, and if previous years are any indicator, history will be on her side. The defending SLC individual champion will be going for her second consecutive individual crown and would join Ana Rodriguez and Ashley Monteauas Ladyjacks with consecutive individual titles, each of which successfully defended their titles in both 2003 and 2005.

    "Lauren has done what we expected she would do this season," Clark said. "And again, we have high expectations for what she can do at conference and at regionals and it is exciting to think of what she could accomplish if she continues to run the way she is capable."

    Even with Smith as the headliner, it is the depth of the Ladyjack squad which has them ranked ninth in the NCAA South Central Region, three spots higher than any other Southland Conference school. Senior Randi Plentlhas been exceptional in her final season and posted a top-five finish a year ago as a junior at conference.

    Meanwhile, Laurie Byrd has continued to improve as a redshirt sophomore, while Danielle Burchetthas been a pleasant surprise after converting from mid-distance on the track and was even SFA's fourth finisher just two weeks ago at the highly-competitive Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Ark.

    "Our girls are confident in what they can do, and they should be," Clark said. "We are deeper than we were last season and that has really helped us this season, especially with our fourth and fifth finishers."

    SFA's stiffest competition should come from Sam Houston State and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Islanders have won four of the last five league crowns and are ranked 14th in the latest South Central Regional rankings, while the Bearkats sit with a 12th-place rank themselves.

    For the men, Clark is optimistic about what the Lumberjacks can accomplish and will go into battle with one of the better 1-2 punches in the league. Xavier Rodriguez is coming off a 15th-place finish at the Chile Pepper Festival and was second among Southland Conference runners at the meet, while Adam Saloomcontinues to run strong in his senior campaign.

    "Xavier and Adam have been very consistent in their performances this season," Clark said. "If they do what we expect them to do and we get some of our other guys to step up and run well, then I feel like we will be one of the top teams left at the end of the meet."

    The `Jacks have had a number of runners fill out their scoring throughout the year, including Hunter Russell, Jonus Rodriguez and Nick Guerramost recently two weeks ago in Fayetteville.

    SFA enters Friday ranked ninth in the South Central Region, but will have to battle four other teams ranked in the top 15, including favorites Lamar and McNeese State who are each ranked in the top five.

    "The league is as strong and competitive as it has been in the last several years," Clark said. " Because of that, it just amplifies the importance of running well because if you don't, there are too many other good teams out there who are capable of going by you."

    The 8,000-meter men's race is slated to begin at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, with the women scheduled to begin their 8,000-meter trek at 10:00 a.m. Each race will be held at Tyrrell Park.