ACC Cross Country Championships This Weekend
RALEIGH, N.C. The Atlantic Coast Conference kicks off its 2008 fall championship schedule on Saturday, November 1, with the Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships held at the UNC Ranson-Hamrick Cross Country Course at the University of North Carolina.
The women’s 6K race will start at 10:00 a.m., followed by men’s 8K race at 11:00 am.
The conference cross country championship races have long been friendly turf for NC State. The NC State women have dominated the conference ever since it added cross country as a women’s sport, winning 21 of 30 team championships, including four of the last eight, and 10 individual championships. The Pack last won the team title two years ago behind All-Americans Julia Lucas and Bona Jones.
The Wolfpack men, meanwhile, have won 10 of the last 13 conference team championships and six of the last 13 individual championships. The Pack took second place a year ago in Charlottesville, Va., despite having six runners earn all-conference honors, including individual champion Chris Kollar.
With much of their core of upperclassmen unable to compete at 100 percent, the NC State women will field a lineup composed entirely of freshmen on Saturday. Head coach Laurie Henes will send five true freshmen Lauren Bishop, Andie Cozzarelli, Caroline Kirby, Emily Pritt and Tiayonna Blackmon and redshirt-freshman Amanda Burger to the starting line for the Pack at the ACC race.
Bishop, Cozzarelli, Kirby and Pritt all have run attached for the Wolfpack this season. Blackmon will be making her first appearance in uniform this season.
“I really like this group,” Henes says. “They’ve performed well beyond our expectations as a group to this point, and we’ve asked a lot of them. Still, they are freshmen. Everything has been new for them all season, and this will be another new experience. The women’s side in this conference has been loaded for the past several years, and this year is no exception.”
The women’s competition will feature three teams that are currently ranked in the top 30 of the USTFCCCA poll. Florida State enters the championship as the highest ranked ACC team at No. 3 nationally, while Wake Forest is 25th and Duke 30th. The Seminoles are coming off a first-place tie in the White Division of the NCAA Pre-National Meet two weeks ago. The Demon Deacons and the Blue Devils placed third and fourth, respectively in the 28-team Penn State Invitational two weeks ago.
The Wolfpack’s nine-man lineup for this year’s championship race will feature four seniors, a junior and four freshmen. The seniors include sixth-year senior Bobby Mack, a former All-American; three-time All-ACC runner Gavin Coombs; Eric Mack; and Fredy Torres. Fourth-year junior John Martinez, an all-conference performer a year ago, rounds out a five-man group that is long on experience.
Head coach Rollie Geiger will fill out the remainder of his lineup with four very talented freshmen. Bobby Moldovan, Greg Dame and Andrew North all redshirt-freshmen. Ryan Hill is a true freshman.
“I really have a lot of faith in this group of young men,” Geiger says. “There is no question in my mind that we can win this thing, but we’ll have to run our best. The field is very good, and Florida State and Virginia both have excellent cross country teams. Still, I think it would be a mistake to count us out.”
The men’s race will feature three schools ranked in the top 30 of the USTFCCCA poll. Virginia enters the championship as the highest ranked ACC team at No. 14 nationally. The Cavaliers are coming off a sixth-place finish in the White Division at the NCAA Pre-National Meet. The Cavaliers are followed by Florida State 15th and NC State 29th. The Seminoles and the Wolfpack placed fourth and 10th, respectively, in the Blue Division competition at the NCAA Pre-Nationals.