Clayton State cross country gears up for NCAA Division II Southeast Regionals
MORROW, Ga. – November 3, 2011 – Coming off two strong performances at the Peach Belt Conference championships two weeks ago, the Clayton State Laker men's and women's cross country teams will take aim at the NCAA Division II Southeast Regionals this weekend in Charlotte.
Action will take place at McAlpine Creek Park, with the women's 6K race starting at 10 a.m., followed by the men's 10K race at 11 a.m. The top two finishing teams and the top two individuals not on the top two teams will advance to the NCAA Division II National Championships in Spokane, Wash., on Nov. 19.
The Clayton State women are hoping to carry the momentum of a second-place finish at the Peach Belt Conference championships into this weekend. The Lakers finished second behind Montevallo with 74 points, and had three runners make All-PBC with a near-miss for a fourth.
Freshman Jessica Smith finished ninth overall at the PBC, which also 6K like the Division II Southeast Regional, in 24:15.85, while junior Paige Galvin finished 12th in 24:19.75 and sophomore Samantha Walling placed 13th in 24:21.91.
However, the "X-Factor" for the Laker women should be freshman Patricia Olleros. A midfielder for the Clayton State women's soccer team, Olleros joined the cross country squad for the PBC Championships, and finished 15th overall in her first-ever race in 24:39.15. She just missed All-PBC honors by a few seconds.
Head coach Mike Mead is also hoping for some strong times from freshman Maia Kuhnen and sophomore Giesele Javois.
"I'm confident that if we run our best race of the season that we can shoot for a Top Five team finish," said Mead. "Last year we finished seventh in the region, but we were pretty beat-up at the end of the season. We have a very solid core group, especially among our Top Five, and we're entering this year's region meet with some momentum coming off our second place finish at the conference meet."
The Clayton State men are hoping to improve off last season's 10th-place performance, and that could be a challenge in terms of depth with a recent injury to sophomore Ayrton Azcue. Mead says Azcue is questionable for this weekend.
Senior Albert Mong'ony has a strong chance of earning both Division II All-Southeast Region honors and a berth in the NCAA Division II National Championships with a strong showing on Saturday. He finished third at the Peach Belt Conference championships, earning All-PBC honors for a second straight season.
Last season, Mong'ony earned All-Southeast Region honors after placing 15th overall in the Regionals.
Another Laker that could break through with All-Region accolades is sophomore Charles Anderson. He earned All-Peach Belt Conference honors for a second straight season with a 13th-place finish. Freshman Alex Foss and sophomore Russell Lawless have both trained well leading up to this weekend.
"Our men's team has gotten in some sound training since the conference meet," Mead said. "I'll be pleased if we can crack the Top 10 again this year."