ANDERSON, S.C. – With a wealth of experience on the roster and the goal of remaining in the upper echelon of the South Atlantic Conference and the Southeast Region, first-year Anderson University head men's and women's cross country coach Kevin Eagle unveiled the Trojans' 2017 schedule on Friday.
"For this year's schedule, we are pretty much staying in our own backyard," said Eagle. "We have so many great competitions and race venues within a close proximity to Anderson, there really is not a great need to travel extremely far."
Anderson will open its slate at USC Upstate's Eye Opener for the seventh time in nine seasons when the Trojans return to Spartanburg on Friday, Sept. 1 for the 34th running of the evening event. The Eye Opener will be hosted at the Milliken Research Center course and is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. with the women's 5K race followed shortly after by the men's 8K run.
Newcomers paced the Black and Gold women's squad a season ago, with then-freshman Breck Jones leading the Trojan women over the 5K course and finishing third among NCAA Division II runners. Abigail Bozarth claimed sixth, while newcomer Morgan Bridges placed seventh. Then-freshman Rebecca Faircloth finished in ninth place. A pair of then-freshmen competed in the men's 8K, with Luke Horne finishing 11th among D-II runners and classmate Brooks Hovis claimed 13th place.
For the first time since the 2008 campaign, the Black and Gold will not make an appearance in the Queen City, but will return to Greenville, S.C. on Sept. 9 for their sixth appearance at Furman in seven seasons. The Paladins' will be hosting their fifth annual Cross Country Classic on the Furman University Golf Course. Led by Mason Hazel's seventh-place finish, the men's team finished seventh among non-NCAA Division I schools a season ago, with Horne finishing 58th and Hovis was 62nd. John Drummond crossed the finish line in 91st place.
On the women's side, Haylee Love claimed 12th place, while Alex Dixon placed 21st. Abigail Bozarth crossed the finish line in the 39th spot, with Jones just behind in 40th place and Martha Coleman in 43rd place. Maddie Buddenberg took the 53rd slot, while Bridges placed 54th. Faircloth notched a 69th-place finish, with newcomer Emily Olson rounding out the Trojan contingent in 143rd.
Three weeks later, AU travels back north on Interstate 85 to Spartanburg to compete in the USC Upstate Invitational for the second time in three seasons. The event is slated to start at 9 a.m. with the women's 5k race followed by the men's 8k race at 9:45 a.m. The Trojan women placed five runners in the top-10 and finished first among non-NCAA Division I teams last year. Love paced AU with a fifth-place finish, while Bozarth slashed more than a minute off her previous season-best to cross the line in eighth place, with Dixon finishing ninth. Coleman and Buddenberg finished 11th and 13th, respectively.
Hazel led all non-NCAA Division I runners and finished eighth overall on the men's side, with Hovis crossing the finish line in eighth. Drummond finished 23rd, while Horne claimed in 31st place.
For the first time in program history, the Trojans will venture to Tallulah Falls, Ga., for the Piedmont College Invitational on Oct. 7, and following a two-week layoff, AU will travel to Hickory, N.C., on Oct. 21 to compete in the SAC Championships after each squad posted third-place finishes a season ago.
Love will be looking to earn All-SAC honors for the fourth consecutive year after crossing the finish line in 13th place. Bozarth earned Honorable Mention All-SAC honors after finishing in 16th place, while Buddenberg was just behind in 17th place and also garnered Honorable Mention All-SAC accolades. Coleman narrowly missed capturing Honorable Mention All-SAC honors with a 22nd-place finish.
Hannah Sanford finished 25th a year ago, while Jones notched a 27th-place finish and crossed the line with the sixth-best time among freshmen. Bridges placed 29th, with Faircloth claiming 34th place.
Hazel captured First-Team All-SAC honors for the second straight year with a runner-up performance - his highest finish at the SAC Championships, while Hovis was named SAC Freshman of the Year and also garnered a spot on the ALL-SAC Second Team by finishing 12th. Horne collected a spot on the SAC All-Freshman Team by crossing the finish line in 35th place, while Drummond posted a 54th-place finish.
Two weeks later, the Trojans will make an appearance in the NCAA Southeast Regionals, which will be hosted by fellow South Atlantic Conference-member Wingate. Behind a national championship-qualifying performance from Love, the women's team narrowly missed becoming the first cross country team in school history to qualify for the NCAA National Championships after posting a fourth-place finish a year ago in Montevallo, Ala.
Love became the first Trojan to qualify for the national championships since former All-American Whitney Bishoff earned back-to-back appearances in 2008 and 2009 and again in the 2011 campaign. Bozarth crossed the line in 38th place, Buddenberg claiming 46th place. Jones finished in 68th place, with Coleman just behind in 69th place.
Hazel led the Trojan men with a 22nd-place finish, while garnering All-Region accolades for third straight year. Horne placed 64th with Hovis crossing the finish line in 75th place.
The NCAA Championships will be hosted in Evansville, Ind., on Saturday, Nov. 18.
"We are putting a big emphasis on the postseason meets this season probably more than ever before," added Eagle. "We have a team coming in who knows what they are capable of and should be a force on the regional and national level. This schedule allows us to be able to peak at the right time of year in hopes of reaching the national championships in November."