2013 Big South XC Championships Preview: Women
Courtesy: VMIKeydets.com  
Release: 11/01/2013
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Courtesy: VMIKeydets.com

The 2013 Big South Cross Country Championships will be held Nov. 2 at the Vista Links Golf Course in Buena Vista, Va. The course opens at 8:15 a.m., with the opening gun of the men's 8K set for 10:30. The women's 5K follows at 11:30 a.m. 

How to Follow

Unfortunately, there will not be live updates from the course due to a lack of internet access at Vista Links. However, fans are encouraged to use the Meet Central page (link at left) and go to their favorite school's site to locate the Twitter pages of their favorite programs, as coaches and representatives may update results in that fashion. 

Important Fan Information

Directions and other pertinent information can be found on the previously mentioned Meet Central page. 

Fans should note that the location and setup of parking will differ from September's VMI Invitational, the only other meet ever held at this course. Those arriving will be directed by both officials and signage as to the proper location to park, as it will likely depend on the time of arrival. 

In addition, fans are encouraged to pick up a program and a Big South Fan Guide on the way into the facility. After parking, fans will walk down across a gravel lot and a cart path to reach the course viewing area. It is expected that the materials will be available on the cart path, but fans should be aware that could change due to weather. 

Team by team women's program capsules follow. 

Coastal Carolina

Coastal Carolina enters this meet as the favorite, and does so in large part on the shoulders of Letitia Saayman. Saayman, a four-time Big South Runner of the Week this season, won the Big South Preview by 17 seconds in September. The Chanticleers wound up with three runners - Saayman, Kyla Van Graan and Emily Marchini - in the top six at that meet. Van Graan is a leading contender for Freshman of the Year, while Marchini joins Shelby Nicosia and Janel Reeves to form a senior trio in the 3-5 spots of Coastal's lineup.

Top Threat: Saaymann

Key: Will the seniors come through?

Liberty

Liberty is the defending Big South champion, and this year, junior Jacy Christensen is the Lady Flames' top hope. She will contend for an individual title, but there are questions behind her. Liberty has had two freshmen, Chelsea Page and Jessie Proehl, run inside their top four all season. Proehl has, in particular, been impressive, coming home behind only Christensen in each race this season for the Lady Flames. The title hopes for Liberty rest not only on those two freshmen, but on the 4-5 spots behind them, which have had several runners occupy them this season.

Top Threat: Christensen

Key: Will youth be served at the Vista Links?

VMI

The host Keydets have developed a solid top two, with junior Hannah Dickinson and redshirt junior Dalton Kuhar going 1-2 in each race this season. After the graduation of a class that included school record holder Jenna Moye and Leah Schubel, and after suffering injuries at various points throughout the year, the question for this team has been depth. Their place in the final finishing order, like so many other teams, depends on their 3-5 runners. The closer to Dickinson and Kuhar that those runners finish, the better for VMII. Kelsey Newcomb took the #3 spot for the first time at the Blue Ridge Open, while Molly Western had finished there in each of VMI's previous races.

Top Threat: Dickinson/Kuhar

Key: Depth, depth, depth. Where does the back end of the top five finish? That will dictate the Keydets' final placing.

High Point

The Panthers are led by this year's top threat for conference freshman of the year, Cozette Collin. Collin struggled with illness at Oct. 19's Blue Ridge Open, but still managed a 19:04 over the 5K course. She has led HPU in all four of her races this year. Behind her is the senior Kayleigh Perry, fifth at the conference meet last season, as well as veteran Audrey Malloy, who has gone anywhere from #2 to #5 in the team's lineup. High Point is a deep team with both youth and experience, and should be considered the front-runner to finish third. With a quality race, they could challenge for higher.

Top Threat: Collin

Key: Can they recover from a down race (9th) at the Blue Ridge Open?

UNC Asheville

This is, perhaps, the team coming into this meet with the most confidence of all. Like several others, their last meet was the Blue Ridge Open. Asheville finished fourth at that event, and although third-place Coastal easily outpointed the Bulldogs, Asheville beat High Point by 72 points. Comparing that to September's Big South Preview meet, where HPU got the better of the Bulldogs by 76 points, that is a 148 point swing between those two teams in less than two months. Freshman Sarah Heisner and senior Melanie Kulesz have gone 1-2 for UNCA the majority of the season.

Top Threat: Heisner/Kulesz

Key: The 3-5 runners behind Heisner and Kulesz - High finishes there, and it's easy to project Asheville finishing third. 

Campbell

Campbell is another team that could battle for third at this meet, after a fourth-place finish at the preview meet in September. There, Ashley Matthews and Samantha Robbins both had top-10 finishes, and in fact, Matthews finished just behind Coastal's Saayman and Liberty's Christensen in the individual standings. Like many of the other teams, however, the third through fifth places will be key. For most of the season, Campbell's third place runners have been at least 40 seconds behind Matthews and Robbins, with that time being over a minute in some instances. Closing that gap will be the difference between third and fifth for the Camels.

Top Threat: Robbins

Key: Closing the gap between the top two runners and third place.

Radford

Radford is a relatively young squad, with three of their nine runners being freshmen. The team leader, however, has been junior Teresa Williamson, who comes off a top-10 finish at the Blue Ridge Open. Williamson was eighth at the Big South Preview and 15th at the Charlotte Invitational - But in the three races she's run this season, the closest any of her teammates have finished to her is one minute, 14 seconds back. That gap must close for RU to move up from its seventh-place preview meet result.

Top Threat: Williamson

Key: Can Malina Richardson and Madeline Thomas close the gap to their team leader Williamson?

Winthrop

This is one team that poses an unknown to the rest of the conference. WU star Jeanne Stroud, last year's Most Outstanding Track Performer at the conference outdoor meet, has been run very conservatively this year, competing only twice and not doing so since Sept. 21. In her stead, Tristian Langley has WU's top time so far this year, an 18:46 at WU's Invitational, a meet that was run the same day as the Big South Preview. The Eagles, in fact, were one of just three teams (PC and Gardner-Webb) to not run the preview meet, making them even more of an unknown. With Stroud, they could make some noise toward the top of the standings.

Top Threat: Stroud

Key: The health of their star.

Charleston Southern

CSU is led by Jessie Dotson, who was the team's top finisher at the preview meet and has run as well as 18:16 over 5K this season. Dotson also helped her team to a win at the four-team Citadel Invitational the week after the preview meet. CSU, interestingly, is the only Big South team to run six full-length races (5K or 6K) this year, as most teams either opt for an extra week off or to run a shorter, more relaxed distance at least once. For example, one of the Bucs' rivals in the second half of the team standings, Gardner-Webb, has run full-length events just three times entering the Championships.

Top Threat: Dotson

Key: Which scheduling strategy pays off?

Gardner-Webb

The Bulldogs were one of the few teams who did not run at the Big South Preview meet, choosing instead to partake in the Winthrop Invitational. Jenna Ford has led the team in every race this season, finishing as high as third, but none of her teammates had been within 30 seconds of her until Claire Cates hit that mark Oct. 11 at the Queens Invitational. If Cates stays there and another runner can close the gap, Gardner-Webb may edge toward the top of the second half of the standings.

Top Threat: Ford

Key: Cates and a third runner continuing to close on Ford.

Longwood

Longwood has competed in four races this year, and has been led by Brittany Foote in all four. Foote, a junior out of New York, was the 46th place finisher at the Big South Preview meet and has a top time this season of 20:17 over 5K, that coming in the open race of the Blue Ridge Open, where Longwood was second of five teams on Oct. 18. The Lancers were ninth at the conference preview, and will need Foote to get more support if they hope to move up.

Top Threat: Foote

Key: Can they support their leader?

Presbyterian

The Blue Hose continue to look for improvement on the XC course this season, and have been led by Gabby Lesieur in that quest. Lesieur has lowered her seasonal best in each of her first four races this season before running 20:31 at the Francis Marion Invitational Oct. 18. PC is still looking for a runner to break the 20-minute barrier.

Top Threat: Lesieur

Key: Using this experience as a moment to continue to build up the Blue Hose XC program.

 


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