2013 Big South XC Championships Preview: Men
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. 

Weather

As of Wednesday at 4:45 p.m., no rain was expected Saturday. The high was anticipated to hover around 60 degrees. Rains, however, are expected much of the day Friday and could muddy portions of the course.

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 capsules of the Big South's men's programs follow. 

VMI

The host Keydets have been led the last two races by sophomore Avery Martin, competing in his first full cross country season. Martin was 13th at the Blue Ridge Open after finishing eighth at the Charlotte Invitational. Senior Cabell Willis continues to seek his first All-Big South honor after just missing last season, and he has joined Sean Helmke and Patrick Spahn in forming a strong, deep top four. The Keydets were narrowly edged out by High Point at the Blue Ridge Open, and should be a part of a High Point/Campbell/VMI scramble for the 2-4 positions at this meet.

Top Threat: Martin

Key: VMI doesn't have a certain title contender, but has used its depth all year - How high up can Helmke and the #5 runner (likely Luke Phillips, Brandon White or Will Thompson) finish?

Liberty

Liberty enters this meet as the favorites to reclaim the Big South title after losing it last season to High Point. After Caleb Edmonds won the Big South Preview meet in September, Josh MacDonald has been Liberty's #1 runner in each of the the last two races he's run, including a 109th-place finish at the Pre-Nationals race on Oct. 19. The Flames are ranked #11 in the Southeast Region entering Saturday's competition, and will have MacDonald and Edmonds backed up by Negetich Kipchirchir and Jeremie Bourget, who finished second and fourth respectively at the conference preview meet. 

Top Threat: MacDonald/Edmonds

Key: Can anyone match their depth?

High Point

This may be the team that enters this meet with the most question marks - and perhaps the biggest one of all is Patrick Crawford. HPU's team leader and last year's fifth-place Big South finisher sat out the Blue Ridge Open with an injury and his team struggled in his absence. HPU finished just sixth overall despite Jeff LaCoste being the top D-I finisher, and had just a seven-point cushion over VMI. That was a reduction of 57 points over the 64-point cushion HPU had on the fourth-place Keydets at the Big South Preview meet. Crawford's health is paramount to the way this meet breaks down, that much is certain. 

Top Threat: LaCoste

Key: Patrick Crawford.

Campbell

Campbell, the third place team at the Big South Preview, comes in perhaps the most consistent team of the third place contenders. They, unlike High Point, have yet to have a very poor race, and have used their depth every week. The Camels had four runners in the top 21 at the preview, led by Morgan Timiney's eighth-place finish, and finished sixth two weeks ago at the Pre-Nationals in the white race (secondary race) when Timiney finished 10th. Chris Schulist, one of the conference's top middle-distance runners on the track, is CU's #2 runner - Watch for him to potentially take the race out early, as he did so at the preview meet en route to a 14th-place result. 

Top Threat: Timiney

Key: The pace Campbell chooses could play a role - Does Schulist, for example, play things more conservatively than he did on this course in September? 

Coastal Carolina

While it's not up to the level of its women's program this season, Coastal's men's team can pose a threat. The Chanticleers are led by Joseph Keitt, who was fifth at the preview meet, and Evan Niciphor, 15th at the Blue Ridge Open. The questions begin behind the top two, much like several other Big South teams. For example, Coastal had Niciphor and Keitt in the top-19 at the Blue Ridge Open, but the next runner was all the way back in 69th, leading to a ninth-place team finish, 80-plus points behind High Point and VMI. The team finished fifth at the Big South Preview meet, and that appears to be where they slot in here, barring a significant step forward. 

Top Threat: Niciphor

Key: The performance of the 3-5 runners.

Radford

The Highlanders, who finished sixth at the Big South Preview, are led by junior Ryan Farnan. Farnan has led RU in each of their four races this season, most recently finishing 42nd at the Blue Ridge Open, where the Highlanders were 15th in the team standings, ahead of Winthrop, Longwood and Gardner-Webb. At the BR Open, however, RU's #2 runner finished some 60 spots behind Farnan, and that has been a trend. Even at the preview meet, the next best Radford finisher was 28th, 61 seconds behind their leader. The rest of RU's runners are closely grouped, as that #2 spot has been held by a different runner in each of the team's last three races. 

Top Threat: Farnan

Key: A consistent #2 runner stepping up.  

Gardner-Webb

GWU is one of several teams that chose not to compete at the Big South Preview meet - joining CSU, Presbyterian and Winthrop in skipping the event. The fittingly-named Runnin' Bulldogs have been led this year by Mike McClay, who was the Oct. 16 Big South Runner of the Week. McClay has gone as low as 25:11 for an 8K time this year, and comes off a 32nd place finish at the Blue Ridge Open. In 8K races, however, the disparity between McClay and his teammates is drastic. Only once in GWU's three 8K races this year has a teammate been within three minutes of their squad leader, and that was a two minute, 55 second gap between McClay and Joshua Ceasar at the Blue Ridge Open. Still, on the strength of McClay alone, GWU should be respectable in the second half of the standings. 

Top Threat: McClay

Key: Can one of the other runners step up?

Winthrop

The Eagles are an interesting case study - While High Point, for example, tends to run more frequently than most other Big South schools, including adding an extra race between conference and regionals, Winthrop is at the other end of the spectrum. Only two of WU's men's runners have run three 8K's this season - Ellis Coe (best time 26:31) and Braxton Sheriff (27:36). Overall, the best time Winthrop has run this season came at the Blue Ridge Open, where sophomore Colby Coulter ran a 25:45 8K. 

Top Threat: Unknown

Key: Does the strategy of a lighter schedule work?

Longwood

The Lancers are competing in their second Big South Championship, hoping to move up from last year's ninth-place result. Longwood showed signs of that being possible at the preview meet, when the Lancers were eighth, but in a field that did not include the three teams they bested at last year's Big South meet. Freshman Robert Willis has become a standout, leading the team in each of the last two races. Russell Reed has also filled the #1 role at times this year. 

Top Threat: Willis

Key: Continuing to move up in the Big South standings. 

UNC Asheville

UNC Asheville's season has been marked by pack running at the front of their team, with their top three runners often sticking together throughout a race. For example, the top three Bulldogs at the Blue Ridge Open finished within 12 seconds of each other. This is similar to what VMI has done for much of the year. The problem for Asheville, however, is that the pack has been finishing too far back. At the preview meet, where Asheville was seventh, the top trio - Brent Schouler, Andy Thornburg and Kevin Paradise (in that case) finished 33rd-35th. That must improve for Asheville to move up the standings. 

Top Threat: Unknown

Key: The top three finishers must finish higher. 

Charleston Southern

CSU is another team who has never competed on this course. The Bucs have been led by Zachary Long at times this year, after Long was fifth at the three-team Citadel Invite in September and 19th at the Queens Invite two weeks later. Interestingly, this will be the biggest field CSU has faced this season, after being involved in events that had three, five and two teams, respectively, in each of its last three races. It is also worth noting that this is not a deep squad - Only six runners are listed on their official web site roster. 

Top Threat: Unknown

Key: Unknown. This team is a question mark to an outside observer, due to scheduling and competing in low-key events, it is almost impossible to prognosticate their results. 

Presbyterian

The Blue Hose continue to try to build the foundation of their program, as they come off their first team title in an event since 2000 two weeks ago at the Francis Marion Invite. The team is led by Seth Warner, who has a top 8K time this year of 29:11, while Reid McCandless has also gone under 30:00 twice. 

Top Threat: Warner

Key: Continuing to gain experience and build a foundation.

 


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