Nathan Collier was the top SFA finisher on the men's side at the SLC Championships two weeks ago in Nacogdoches.
Nov. 11, 2011
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - With the conference championships in the rear view mirror, the Stephen F. Austin men's and women's cross country teams will move on to an even tougher test this weekend when they take part in the NCAA South Central Regional Championships in Waco, Texas.
The Lumberjacks are coming off a fourth-place finish at the SLC Championships at Piney Woods Country Club in Nacogdoches, while the Ladyjacks finished sixth overall as a team despite placing two runners in the top three overall, including SLC individual champion Lauren Smith.
"This is a great opportunity to showcase both of our teams," SFA cross country coach Cody Clark said. "All of the top schools from throughout the region will be in Waco, and it's just a great chance for our runners to pick off some schools from bigger conferences as well as to maybe knock off some of the Southland schools on a longer course that finished ahead of us at the conference meet."
The women's 6,000-meter race will begin at 10:00 a.m. from Cottonwood Creek Golf Course, with the men following by bumping up to a 10,000-meter run that is scheduled for an 11:00 a.m. start.
"It's a lot flatter than Piney Woods, with some rolling hills and some inclines, but nowhere near what we see at Piney Woods," Clark said. "We should see some improvements in times based on what we typically see at Piney Woods."
Smith cruised to the SLC individual crown two weeks ago, finishing nearly a full minute ahead of her closest competitor and two days later was named the league's athlete of the year. She, along with Randi Plentl who finished third at the Southland championships, each will be racing with legitimate shots of advancing to the national meet, according to Clark.
"Both Lauren and Randi have ran extremely well this season and it would be great for one, or both of them to advance," Clark said. "They deserve it."
As a team, the Ladyjacks enter the meet ranked 15th in the latest South Central Region rankings, while the men will toe the line with a No. 10 ranking for the second consecutive year.
Led by Nathan Collier at the conference meet, SFA finished in fourth overall, just nine points behind Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for third in the league. But Clark knows there is room for improvement from his Lumberjacks, who have done a good job of bunching their finishes together throughout the year.
"We've still got a deep team, and I think we have another good team race left in us" Clark said. "Adam (Saloom) didn't have the race that he wanted to at conference, which was tough because he had been our top finisher all year up to that point. The beauty of regionals is that he's got a chance to make up for that."
Saloom finished 17th overall at the league meet, behind Collier's 14th-place finish, and in all the `Jacks placed four runners in the top 21 spots and seven in the top 40. With a solid performance, the `Jacks could better their 8th-place finish at the regional meet a year ago.
Each of the top two teams on both the men's and women's side earn automatic berths to the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., while the next four individual finishes not associated with a qualifying team will also earn a ticket to Terre Haute.