Clayton State aims to be prime contenders in 2011 Peach Belt Conference Cross Country Championships
MORROW, Ga. – October 21, 2011 – The Peach Belt Conference championship will be on the line on Saturday for both the Clayton State Laker men's and women's cross country teams as they venture to Aiken, S.C., and USC Aiken for the conference championships.
It begins on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. with the women's 6K run, followed by the men's 8K race on Pacer Path at 10:45 a.m. The Clayton State men's team is aiming for its second Peach Belt Conference championship (the Lakers won their first in 2005), while the Laker women are searching for their first PBC championship.
"This is perhaps the most even that the conference, in both the men's and women's races, has been in many years," said Clayton State head coach Mike Mead. "I look for UNC Pembroke to be the frontrunner in the men's field, but you cannot rule out Columbus State. If we have our best effort, we could make it interesting!
"In the women's race, there are four teams in the mix to win and we're one of those teams. On paper, Montevallo has run the best as a team, by time, but we're running toe-to-toe against one another."
Pacing the Laker men is senior returning All-Peach Belt Conference performer Albert Mong'ony. The native of Nairobi, Kenya has recorded three Top Five finishes in Clayton State's four meets during the regular season. He ran a personal 8K best of 25:38 at the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic, and recorded third-place finishes at the Strut's Season Opener and the Foothills Invitational, both hosted by Jacksonville State.
Clayton State will also be heavily depending on sophomore returning All-Peach Belt Conference performer Charles Anderson, plus freshman standout Alex Foss for some major points. In addition, look for sophomores Ayrton Azcue and Russell Lawless have some big finishes and give the Lakers some key points.
"For us to have a shot at winning, we need our Top Five in the Top 15," Mead said. "Our guys have trained together and are a tight-knit unit. They know what is at stake and are focused on the challenge."
In terms of team performances, the Clayton State women have gelled rather well this season. Despite not having senior All-Peach Belt performer Kourtney Aylor to an injury, the Lakers have recorded Top Six finishes in three of their four meets. In Clayton State's last meet at the Foothills Invitational on Oct. 8, the Lakers had three runners break 20 minutes in the 5K distance.
Sophomore Samantha Walling is once again emerging as the Lakers' No. 1 runner after recovering from an injury in the second half of last season. She ran a personal-best 19:21 at the Foothills Invitational.
Also, fellow sophomore Paige Galvin and freshman Jessica Smith will make strong pushes for All-Peach Belt honors, while sophomore Gisele Javois and freshman Maia Kuhnen have each shown tremendous improvement throughout the course of the season.
"Our women's team is perhaps the best it's been in a few years. We have a solid nucleus of four, led by Samantha Walling, who have been rapidly improving," Mead said. "We have been focused on speed the last three weeks and the whole team has responded. Our Top 3 have an excellent opportunity for All-PBC, as well as freshman Maia Kuhnen."