Cross Country Heads To Regional Meet
Nov. 8, 2012
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Less than two weeks after the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks claimed their seventh Southland Conference title, both the Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks will take their talents to Fayetteville on Friday when they take part in the NCAA South Central Regional Championships.
The Ladyjacks won the league's meet by just two points over rival Sam Houston State at Tyrrell Park in Beaumont, while the Lumberjacks finished third as a team, led by Xavier Rodriguez's school-record performance.
The women's 6,000-meter race will begin at 11:00 a.m. at Agri Park in Fayetteville, with the men following by bumping up to a 10,000-meter trek that is scheduled for 12:15 p.m.
"We have already had a look at this course earlier in the year at the Chile Pepper Festival, and we ran well that weekend," cross country coach Cody Clark said. "This is another one of the meets that we really work hard to compete well at and hopefully we are able to show well against some of the best schools in this region."
The Ladyjacks head to Fayetteville ranked 11th in the latest South Central regional poll, and has a likely candidate to advance to the national meet in Louisville, Ky., in reigning SLC champion Lauren Smith. She just missed out on qualifying for nationals by one place a year ago and will be looking to become the first Ladyjack to qualify for the national meet since Ashley Monteau in 2005.
"Lauren really deserves to be at the national meet," Clark said. "But she has to prove it one more time. Last year was very close for her and hopefully she can use that close call as motivation to push to a new threshold this weekend."
Smith will be joined on the course by senior teammates all-conference runner Randi Plentl and Danielle Burchett on the course, each of whom played a big role in SFA's title two weeks ago. Laurie Byrd and freshman Shelby Pesek also scored in that meet, while Becca Blubaugh and Amanda Walters will be looking to close out the year on a high note before becoming upper classmen going into next year.
On the men's side, the Lumberjacks enter Friday ranked eighth in the region, trailing only McNeese State and Lamar among Southland schools. Led by seniors Rodriguez and Adam Saloom, the `Jacks sport a lineup that Clark feels has even more in the tank than what he's seen so far.
"Xavier has consistently been our top finisher all season, but the rest of the pack has really differed each time out," Clark said. "We have a lot of quality runners on our team, and if we can get the best that each of them have on Friday, we'll step up and surprise a lot of teams."
Saloom finished 13th at the conference meet and was followed by Jonus Rodriguez (17th), Nich Guerra (20th) and Hunter Russell (24th). The `Jacks have also gotten scores throughout the year from Moses Luevano, Cameron Courtney and Colby McCune.
Each of the top two teams on both the men's and the women's side earn automatic berths to the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Ky., while the next four individual finishes not associated with a qualifying team will also earn a ticket to Louisville.