Cross country heads into November with championship ambition in sight

Derik Wuchte

The Women’s cross country team will be heading to Atlanta, GA on Nov. 1 for the Sun Belt Championships. The team is coming off of a recent third place finish in the College of Charleston Classic. Assistant Coach Franz Holmes sees this team as being something special. With top runners like sophomore Rebecca Parker leading the way, this team is ready to earn their mark this season and earn a place at regionals.

“We’re going to be well rested,” said Holmes.

“The week following up to the meet, we’re going to take more time to work on the technicals and the mental aspects of the race. But it’s not going to be as much pounding as when we went to Winthrop. I really want [the team] to be fresh mentally and physically.”

At the College of Charleston Classic, that took place at the Winthrop Lakes Course, five Eagles placed in the top 35 during the race. Parker earned a 10th place finish. She was followed by junior Bianka Loza, who finished 17th. Junior Ashton Lord, freshman Erin Mullican and freshman Chantelle Nicholls each finished 30th, 32nd and 34th, respectively.

“I think that the team, if you were to ask them, feel that they’re in the best position that they’ve been in a long time,” said Holmes. “It’s a young squad so the thing that we can gain most from a championship is experience because every one of these girls will be coming back next year.”

“What I’ve been trying to instill in them is that they’re just as good, if not better, than the other teams out there. And if you can believe it, you can achieve it. We’re really trying to focus in and do a lot more teaching–classroom sessions, so to speak–before practice, trying to get them to believe in themselves.”

Parker was part of the team last season. Southern placed 10th in the Sun Belt Championships last year. She knows this team is different and they are ready to prove something come November.

“I think we have really good chances,” said Parker. “So we’re coming off a not-as-great placement as last year, but I know we can do a lot better than that. We had a great freshmen class come in. And then you have Bianka, who’s a transfer junior, Ashton, who’s a junior… So we have some great leadership. I just think we’re going to do a lot better just because of the leadership and the hard work we do at practice.”

“That’s one of our biggest goals this year: coming together as a team. Whether it’s cross country or track. I think we’re coming together a lot better and I think we’re really hitting that goal like we wanted to.”

Every placement in a cross country race matters. A fifth place finish doesn’t overwrite a 70th place finish. Each individual result counts towards the team point total and the team with the higher point count places higher. That is why it has been especially important for the Eagles to keep in sync with each other and stay team-focused as the championship nears.

“They’re really learning how to work together as a team and encourage each other,” said Holmes. “I think all this team needs is time. Time and experience, and then the time and the performances they need to win the championship.”

Sunday, Nov. 1 will be the Sun Belt Championships. If the Eagles place high enough, they will earn the right to compete in the NCAA Regionals on Saturday, Nov. 14.