Oct. 28, 2011
2011 ACC Cross Country Championships Site
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The men’s and women’s Atlantic Coast Conference Cross Country Championships will be held Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Musser Farms Course in Clemson, S.C. The men’s 8k race will start at 10 a.m., followed by the women’s 6k competition at 11 a.m.
The ACC is one of the nation’s strongest conferences in cross country, with three men’s teams and five women’s teams ranked in the latest national poll by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
In the men’s rankings, Florida State enters the championship as the highest-ranked ACC team at No. 18 nationally, while NC State is 19th and North Carolina 30th.
The women’s race will feature five schools ranked in the Top 30 of the USTFCCCA poll. Florida State enters the championship as the nation’s top-ranked team. The Seminoles are followed by Virginia at No. 17, NC State at 21, North Carolina at 22 and Boston College at 24.
The Wolfpack enters the 2011 ACC Championships looking to continue the conference’s strongest tradition in cross country. The NC State men have won 13 of the last 20 league championships, including nine of 10 from 1995-2004. The Pack won the title two years ago. The Wolfpack women have won 18 of 33 conference championships, including one stretch of 16 championships in 20 years from 1983-2002. The State women last won the crown in 2006.
Additionally, NC State figures to challenge for both individual championships. The men have won the individual championship 10 times, the women 11 times.
Senior Ryan Hill, a two-time All-American, has to be one of the favorites on the men’s side, and has had an outstanding 2011 season with second-place finishes at both the Roy Griak Invitational and the Wisconsin adidas Open. Redshirt-sophomore Andrew Colley was All-ACC a year ago.
On the women’s side, sophomore Laura Hoer won the individual championship as a true freshman a year ago, and senior Andie Cozzarelli was All-ACC and has had a strong senior campaign. True freshman Joanna Thompson should be in the running for ACC Freshman of the Year.
The men’s team was ranked No. 9 before the Wisconsin Open, and then surprisingly dropped 10 spots in the rankings after finishing 11th in a loaded field in Madison. The Wolfpack lineup should be much stronger this weekend than it was at Wisconsin.
“Greg Dame was ill at Wisconsin, but is in the lineup this weekend,” men’s head coach Rollie Geiger said. “Andrew Colley was unable to run at Wisconsin. He’s in the lineup. John Sharpe wasn’t in the lineup at Wisconsin. He’s in the lineup this weekend. So it’s a different team.”
At full strength, the Wolfpack men’s team is a deep, veteran squad. Dame, Adam Henken and Bobby Moldovan are fifth-year seniors. Hill is a senior. Patrick Campbell and Brian Himelright are fourth-year juniors.
At Wisconsin, Hill ran away with the lead group, but the Wolfpack’s next five runners ran in a pack separated by just 16 seconds. They’ll need to pick up the pace a bit to win Saturday at Clemson, but given the team’s seasoning, Geiger won’t be surprised to see that happen.
“Seven of our 10 runners are in their fourth or fifth year,” Geiger said. “That’s a lot of experience. There’s not a lot that can happen that they’re not prepared for. They’ve been there before and they have an opportunity. And that’s the goal of the program, to put yourself in a position to have an opportunity.”
So looking at Saturday, Geiger’s game plan is to return to the basics of the sport.
“Cross country isn’t complicated,” Geiger said. “You need a couple of athletes to penetrate and run at the front of the lead pack. The rest of your athletes need to run as closely as a group as possible, and as close to the lead group as possible. If we do that, we have a chance. It’s not very complicated. Low score wins.”
The women’s team is coming off a very strong performance at Wisconsin, a 12th-place finish in a deep field that catapulted the Wolfpack back into the national rankings after a slow start to the season.
Cozzarelli has run at a high level the entire season, as has Thompson. Redshirt-junior Tiayonna Blackmon and sophomore Kenyetta Iyevbele, who both run middle-distance races in track, continue to make a steady transition to cross country. Hoer and Jordan Jenkins returned to the lineup for Wisconsin after missing the first two races of the year.
“Wisconsin was a very big step forward for us, and it wasn’t just about getting people back in the lineup,” women’s head coach Laurie Henes said. “We ran much better as a team, and got much better times from several returning runners. This is a young team, and they didn’t respond well at Minnesota. They ran much better at Wisconsin. And our more experienced runners really stepped it up at Wisconsin. Andie, Erin and Tiayonna did not get passed by a single runner the last half of that race. That’s really impressive in a field that strong and that deep.”
Of the Wolfpack’s core group of runners, Cozzarelli is a senior, Blackmon is a fourth-year junior, and Mercer and Jenkins are juniors. The rest of the team is largely inexperienced, especially at the championship level. The ACC Championships is the first of three championship races to conclude the cross country season.
“We’ve worked really hard on our training cycle, and we feel very good about the ACCs,” Henes said. “This a really strong conference. Florida State is really good. We know that. And Virginia, North Carolina and Boston College are very good teams. This is an opportunity and we’re ready for it.”