Nov. 14, 2013
Vanderbilt's men's and women's cross country teams travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala. to race in the NCAA South Regional on Friday morning.
For the women's squad a potential birth in the NCAA Championships could be on the line Friday morning. The Dores look to be in good shape to receive an at-large bid but could sew up the team's third straight trip to the Championships with a top two finish in Tuscaloosa.
"Top two teams automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships and that's what we're running for, an auto qualifying spot," Head Coach Steve Keith said. "Florida State is favored and has won the region the last few years and we've been able to help ourselves by finishing second."
Seven runners will toe the line for VU in the 6K race led by first team All-SEC runner Liz Anderson. Juniors Rebecca Chandler and Claire Benjamin, sophomores Hannah Jumper and Vanessa Valentine and freshmen Carmen Carlos and Lily Williams will join Anderson on the line.
"If we can count on a low number from Liz, what we will be looking for is a more complete and cohesive team race from our numbers two through seven," Keith said.
The Commodores secured an auto bid last season finishing second at the Regional in Tallahassee, Fla. on the strength of three finishers in the top 16 overall, including Anderson and Jumper.
"The women have a great opportunity to have their best race of the season on Friday," assistant coach Rhonda Riley said. "If the women can run as a pack and execute their race plan then they can secure that auto spot for nationals. The ladies know what they need to do and I believe they will step up to the challenge."
The men's team will also field a team of seven runners on Friday with junior John Ewing pacing the squad. Unlike the women, the men face their longest distance of the season with a 10K course on the menu.
"The men will be running their first 10k of the season and running together will be key in their success," Riley said. "The more they can pair up with each other, the better they will do in moving through the field. The men are fit and healthy and excited to put their hard work to the test."
Joining Ewing at the starting line will be senior David McAdams, juniors Matthew Cleveland and Andrew Bachman, sophomores Sam Reilly and Nick French and freshman Jake Van Geffen will make his 10K collegiate debut.
Last year at the Regional in Tallahassee, Ewing posted a career-best in the 10K running the course in 31:57.0 to finish 43rd overall.
"John Ewing had a great race at Regionals last year and I know he's ready for another solid performance," Keith said. "The extra 2000 meters [1.25 miles] is a physical and mental challenge so the men can help themselves greatly by pairing up and helping each other.."
The starting gun for the men's race is set to go off at 10 a.m. at the Harry Pritchett Running Course with the women's race set to start at 11:15 a.m.