Race for Peach Belt Conference Championship Sat.
Morrow, GA – For the Clayton State women's and men's cross country teams, the race to a Peach Belt Conference Championship will take place Saturday in Montevallo, AL.
Both squads will travel to the campus of the University of Montevallo for the 22nd running of the Peach Belt Conference meet. The Men's 8K event begins at 9 a.m. CDT, while the women's 6K event starts at 9:45 a.m. CDT. The top two teams receive awards while the top 14 individuals earn All-PBC honors.
Clayton State's women's program enters Saturday's meet as one of the favorites, currently ranked 2nd in the Southeast Region behind Mt. Olive from the Conference Carolinas. The Lakers also have some positive memories to draw on, winning the Falcon Classic earlier this year on the exact same course for the PBC meet. The squad edged rival Columbus State by three points.
"This is by far the best team that we've had going into the conference championship," said Laker head coach Mike Mead. "We do not have a standout runner on the squad. This bunch has worked together all season long and they are focused on bringing home a Peach Belt title."
The Lakers have a solid group of runners and have been led so far by sophomore Racquel Valadez in three of four meets this year. In the race earlier this season in Montevallo, junior Samantha Walling had the top finish for the team, placing third.
"We have a couple of nagging injuries that could come into play," said Mead. "However, we have the most depth we've ever had and that will factor in should the meet be close, as I expect it will be."
Since joining the Peach Belt in cross country in 1995, Clayton State has never won a Peach Belt title but has been runner-up on four different occasions (2011, 2006, 2001, 1996). Two Laker runners have captured the individual title in the past, as Allison Kreutzer won in 2004 and 2008 and Angela Cobb was the low medalist in 2006.
On the men's side, Clayton State enters the meet banged up with three Laker runners questionable for the race. Freshman Job Kemboi has led the squad in three of four meets this season but had a bad ankle sprain that has slowed his progress over the last two weeks.
Along with Kemboi, junior Aryton Azcue and senior Ricky Fort are also hampered by injuries entering Saturday's race.
"The men's team is talented, but we've had more than our share of injures this season that has slowed our progression," said Lakers head coach Mike Mead. "We have had limited team workouts with limited quality. But these guys are game-day players who will find a way to get out on Saturday and compete to the best of their abilities."
The Lakers finished third earlier this season in the Falcon Classic, the same course as Saturday's race, behind PBC frontrunners Augusta State and Columbus State.
The Lakers finished third overall last year and junior Charles "Scooter" Anderson will look to repeat his All-Peach Belt Conference performance again in 2012. Clayton State has finished among the top 3 teams in the meet since 2002, winning the 2005 conference title and finishing second five times. The Lakers have also had two individual conference champions in Bobby Valadez in 2005 and Walid Berkhedele in 2007.