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    Cross Country Heads To SLC Championships
    Aaron Hohn is one of four juniors who have paced this year's Lumberjack squad
    Aaron Hohn is one of four juniors who have paced this year's Lumberjack squad

    Oct. 26, 2007

    NACOGDOCHES, Texas - When the Stephen F. Austin cross country teams toe the starting line Saturday at the Southland Conference Championships, it will mark their first race in three weeks. The Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks have not run competitively since the Memphis Twilight Classic on Oct. 6. SFA head coach Lou Snelling has spent the interim tweaking the training schedule to bring his young teams along at the proper pace.

    "Since Memphis, in terms of training, we've been doing our final prep work for the end of the season," the fifth-year coach said. "We're adding a little leg preparation and taking down the mileage a little bit, but we never make any really drastic changes in our training.

    "Everything in our training schedule was set up around conference and regionals. We're getting to the point now where we should be running some of our best races of the year."

    Snelling, along with the rest of the conference, will have the chance to see how the SFA runners stack up with the rest of the conference Saturday, when they compete at the annual championship meet, set this year for Corpus Christi, Texas. The meet will kick off at 8:10 a.m. with the men's 8,000-meter race. The women's 5,000-meter race will follow at 8:55. The course is set in West Guth Park, a hilly tract of land that the SFA harriers got a chance to sample last month at the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islander Splash.

    "The course is interesting in that with the setup and the hills, the team that wins is going to have to run a smart race and give an even effort throughout the race," Snelling said. "The course won't benefit a fast start or a strong finish. It's going to be the team that can evenly portion out its effort throughout the race that will perform the best."

    At the front of the effort for the Ladyjacks will be fifth-year senior Katrina Nicholas. She has been SFA's top runner in each of the previous two meets. She ran a season-best 18:15 to finish 10th at the Memphis Twilight. Nicholas was a part of the last Ladyjack team to win an SLC title, finishing fifth to take all-conference honors at the 2005 SLC Championships.

    "Katrina has been an all-conference runner before, so she knows what this meet is about," Snelling said. "This has been a great season for her to this point, and she's very fit. With her performances at Memphis and Corpus, she has shown that fitness. She's got a great shot to be all-conference again and place pretty high in this meet."

    Redshirt freshman Amy Shackelford has emerged as a solid No. 2 for the Ladyjacks in her first competitive season. She has chased Nicholas to the finish at both meets thus far, and turned in a time of 18:33 at the Memphis Twilight.

    "Amy is coming from a little different perspective than Katrina, being a redshirt freshman," Snelling said. "I couldn't be happier with where she is, right now. Every time out, she has raced faster, and I'm excited to see what she can do this weekend. She's got a real shot to be all-conference, which is exciting for someone who is so young."

    On the men's side, the Lumberjacks have gotten consistent effort from their top four runners. Juniors Cole Hollingsworth, Aaron Hohn and Gerardo Moreno, along with true freshman Dennis Yeats, have all finished within around 45 seconds of one another in each of SFA's first two races. Yeats and Moreno were the first two to cross the line at the Islander Splash, while Hollingsworth and Hohn took the top two spots in Memphis.

    "With the guys, we have this tight pack of four at the front, and any one of them could step up and be our number one," Snelling said. "It's been a different guy leading us every time out this season. This weekend, it will just be the one who has a good day and can really go after it."

    The Lumberjacks have won five of the last six SLC Championships with three individual champions during that span. The Ladyjacks have finished first or second in each of the last five conference meets and have produced four of the last five individual champions.

    -- SFA --