Men's Cross Country Looking to Take Next StepAugust 13, 2012
ANDERSON, S.C. – The Anderson University men’s cross country team posted a third- place finish in its inaugural appearance in the Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Championships in 2010, then notched second place as an encore last season.
If the Trojans are to contend for the top spot in the SAC, they will have to break Mars Hill’s grip on the title, as the Lions have claimed the crown an astounding 15 consecutive years. Mars Hill has not finished lower than first place since Elon captured the title in 1996 – with MHC finishing second that year. No other school in the history of the SAC has taken home the championship besides Mars Hill, Elon (three times) and Lenoir-Rhyne (once)
“Our goal is to win the conference championship,” said Anderson head coach Randy Greer. “We were very close last year. It’s going to be a lot closer this year, if it can be closer. For the most part we have the same team back from last year and the guys have a chance to finish strong again this year. Our top five runners will be just as strong as last year.”
The Trojans nearly dethroned nationally fifth-ranked Mars Hill last season, finishing just two points behind the Lions and return four runners who posted top-15 finishes in last season’s championship. Junior Parks Edwards paced the Trojans with a fourth-place effort, earning First-Team All-SAC accolades. Senior Alex Pena garnered an eighth-place finish, while junior Kyle Koby was named Second-team All-SAC after crossing the line in 12th. Senior Matt Shaffer narrowly missed garnering the same honor with his 15th place finish.
“The conference is much stronger than it used to be. Mars Hill has had a long run and both Wingate and Lenoir-Rhyne are going to be strong.”
The Trojans open the 2012 campaign at USC Upstate’s 29th annual Eye Opener on Aug. 31 after bringing home a seventh-place finish a year ago, while claiming the top finish among D-II teams and battling a field that included eight Division I teams. Edwards paced the Trojan effort, crossing the finish line in 27th. Pena posted a 48th-place finish, while Shaffer and Joshua Visi-Clark finished 55th and 56th, respectively.
“The Eye Opener will be an early test for us,” said Greer. “There are usually a lot of teams out of our region that compete at that meet, so it’s a good early-season benchmark to see were where we are and what we need to do to get to where we want to be.”
After a 14-day layoff, AU returns to the course at the Winthrop Invitational on Sept. 14 and closes out September with a visit to UNC Charlotte. AU placed 17th at last season’s event, with Koby leading the Anderson effort at UNCC.
“Winthrop and especially Charlotte will probably both have a lot of teams from both our conference and the Southeast Region,” added Greer. “It will be an opportunity for us to get on faster courses. The NCAA Regionals will be held in Charlotte, so it will almost be like a pre-regional race. Those will be nice tests to again see where we are and provide good comparisons for where we are at that point of the season.”
The Trojans visit Furman for the 40th Gene Mullin Furman Cross Country Invitational after finishing an impressive third at last year’s event. Competing on a challenging course in a 12-team field that included five NCAA Division I teams, four Trojan runners finished in a group less than 16 seconds behind the winning effort. Shaffer, Edwards, Koby and Pena placed 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st, respectively.
“Furman will be a harder course,” noted Greer. “It may be the hardest we’ll be on all year and will be a good test for us. We come off that and head to Queens – and Charlotte again – where we’ll get one last look at the regional course.”
Anderson concludes the regular season by traveling to Queens, a future member of the South Atlantic Conference, on Oct. 6, then heads to the SAC Championships on Oct. 20 in Greeneville, Tenn.
“Hopefully by that point we have all the bumps ironed out and we’ll be ready to go.” Greer concluded. “I think we can do well.”