August 26, 2008

Lady Bobcats Picked to Finish First in Conference

THOMASVILLE, N.C. -- Lees-McRae College has high expectations for the upcoming 2008 cross country season. After a breakout year, where the Bobcats won their seventh conference title in ten years and won the NCAA Southeast Region title, they are looking for a repeat performance. Their expectations are matched by the league coaches who voted the Bobcats the preseason conference favorites going into the upcoming seaso

"We know what we are capable of doing, now going out each day and proving is our task," said Coach Craig McPhail. "We are a year stronger, mature, and mentally prepared for the challenges ahead, so I am excited about our chances." All-Conference performers Ashley May, Dana Lindholm, Carla Swart, April Harris, Demarea Colson, along with Gina Valenti give the Bobcats a solid six and they will need Jenny Hurd, Karyn Bragman and newcomer Kira Shoemaker to help get back to the 2007 accolades they received. "We will have our work cut out for us as everyone will want to come after us, so we'll be ready for anything," McPhail said.

Anderson University head cross country coach Randy Greer believes his team can also challenge for a region championship in 2008, as the Trojans finish second in the league preseason poll. "Our women's team will be five strong," Greer said. "We will have to see where everybody is health-wise. I hope we have an injury-free season. I really think we've got a team that can compete for a conference and region title if everyone is healthy. The Anderson women survived several injuries and a lack of depth last season to finish second in Conference Carolinas and eighth in the region. Gone is Jennifer Hitt, who won her fourth straight Conference Carolinas individual title in '08 but leading the way will be Diana Willard who qualified for her second trip to the NCAA Division II meet last fall. Willard recorded four top-four finishes last season.

"Diana had her best year last year," Greer said. "She ran her best time in cross country and finished second in the region. She is probably the favorite to win the region this year. She has a bright senior year ahead of her if she trains smart. She has experience. It's her time."

Also returning are Chelsea Rogers, Ashley McClellion, and Ashley Blome. "Our top five will be real solid," Greer said. "As long as they're all running and ready to go, I think we will be able to compete just about everywhere we go this year."

The Converse College Valkyries' cross country team is charging up for what is anticipated to be one of the best seasons in the program's history. Last year, Converse surprised the conference with a fourth-place league finish after being picked eighth in the '07 preseason coaches' poll. This year the team is picked third.

Seniors Carrie Powell and Betsy Ruppert will lead the team's returning runners. Coach Mike Coggins, who just joined the Valkyrie staff earlier this year, is accompanied by five new athletes. "We've added some new talent to our team and I can't wait to see what this team can accomplish. I expect to see them do well and I'm sure that our new additions will only improve our performance this season," said head coach Mike Coggins.

Conference CarolinasWomen's Cross Country Pre-Season Poll

(# of First Place Votes in Parenthesis)

1. Lees-McRae (10) 119

2. Anderson (1) 110

3. Converse (1) 84

4. St. Andrews 83

5. Pfeiffer 80

6. Queens 75

7. Limestone 67

8. Coker 53

9. Erskine 44

10. Belmont Abbey 31

T-11. Barton 23

T-11. Mount Olive 23