Thomasville, NC--In another close preseason coaches' poll this season, Conference Carolinas men's cross country coaches marked Anderson University as the top target. Anderson just edged the St. Andrews Presbyterian College men by one point. The teams battled throughout last year with Anderson winning the conference tournament just before St. Andrews came back to win the Southeast Regional to receive the automatic nod to advance to the NCAA National Championships.
"Our men's team would be better this season even if we didn't bring anyone in," said Head Coach Randy Greer. "We're going to be really strong one through nine. Everyone is excited. We know we're good, we know we're going to be better, and we've got some help coming in."
The Trojans won three meets last fall - Lander, Marietta, and the conference championship meet. They finished fourth in the region meet at Wingate to barely miss a trip to the nationals. Nathan Parsons returns to lead the team. Parsons recorded six top ten finishes in 2006. Coach Greer also is expecting big seasons from Ethan Schaffner, Jeremy Hunsaker, Jason Bryan, and Alex Jordan. The team's depth was the reason Anderson won the conference title last fall.
The St. Andrews men's cross country team will look to continue to build on back-to-back trips to the NCAA Division II National Championship with a 2007 roster that features a strong core of letterwinners and a strong freshman class. The Knights bounced back from a slim five-point, runner-up finish in the 2006 Conference Championships by winning their first ever NCAA DII Southeast Regional. SAPC capped last season with their best showing in the National Championship finishing 23rd.
The Knights will try and reclaim the conference title they won in 2005 behind veteran upperclassmen that includes the 2006 Conference Runner of the Year and All-Southeast selection, junior Mitch Cooper. St. Andrews also returns 2006 Conference Freshman of the Year Pedro Tapia, Jr. and 2005 All-Conference junior harrier Perry Morris. Reigning Southeast Region Coach of the Year Gary Aycock added four newcomers to this years squad that will need to fill the shoes of 2006 All-Southeast honorees Tim Bourke and Ryan Janes. "Our team chemistry is the best it has been in the six years I have been at St. Andrews, and this will foster a positive training environment, which in turn should provide us with successful race results," said Aycock.
Lees-McRae College was picked third in this year's poll. After finishing last season's NCAA Southeast regional in sixth and the conference meet in fourth with a youthful squad full of freshmen, the Bobcats appear poised to challenge for the championship this season. After a red-shirt season in 2006, senior Lewis Martin returns to the fold for the Bobcats chasing his second individual conference title after winning the championship and being named Runner of the Year in 2005. Returning All-Conference performers Josh Blanc and Chris Holtstein will assist Martin in bettering last year's performance while Jon Bernal is ready to break through with a strong sophomore season. A talented freshman class led by Aaron Wilkins provides quality depth throughout the roster as the Bobcats look for their fifth team title in ten years.
"I am excited about our team this season. The chemistry and leadership should make this a very fun and enjoyable year," commented Head Coach Craig McPhail (pictured top left). "We will need to maintain development, stay away from injuries and continue to set high goals giving us a great chance for success. Having Lewis compete this year helps. We'll need his passion and leadership to help guide us to the places we want to be."
Conference Carolinas Men's Cross Country Pre-Season Poll (# of First Place Votes in Parenthesis)
1. Anderson (6) 93
2. St. Andrews (4) 92
3. Lees-McRae (1) 83
4. Queens 68
5. Coker 67
6. Limestone 51
7. Pfeiffer 47
8. Erskine 38
9. Belmont Abbey 24
10. Barton 22
11. Mount Olive 20