Oct. 31, 2013
BOCA RATON, Fla. – Florida Atlantic University’s women’s and men’s cross country teams will travel to Denton, Texas for their first appearance as a member of Conference USA when they compete in the 2013 Conference USA Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 2. The conference meet, hosted by North Texas University, will begin with the men’s 8k at 9 a.m. followed by the women’s 5k at 10 a.m.
FAU looks to make a presence in C-USA with a women’s and men’s team that includes many top finishers from last season.
FAU sophomore Chloe Sell recorded her best finish a year ago at the Sun Belt Conference Championship, the league FAU competed in in 2012, when she finished the 5k run with a personal best time of 19:27.90. Sell improved her time in the 5k this season by more than a minute, to 18:09.63, the sixth best time in school history, at the Disney Cross Country Classic, just over two weeks ago. Her performance this season earned her C-USA’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week honors, for the week of Sept. 10.
Tara Cripe, who followed close behind Sell at the 2012 SBC Championships, has also improved her 5k time. This season, Cripe set a new personal record, removing more than 12 seconds off her personal best with a 19:28.39 finish.
Michael Vidal made his mark last season as a freshman finishing the 2012 SBC Championship 8k run in 27:58.00 as FAU’s top men’s finisher. He has improved this season finishing at the University of Florida’s Invitational in 26:16.49. Vidal’s career with FAU is highlighted by accomplishments including breaking a school record in the 10k run with a time of 32:50.80 at the 2012 NCAA South Regional Championships.
Vidal will compete alongside fellow returners Neil Coffman, Adam Simon and Christian Small who look set a new bar as first-year members of C-USA.
“We have spent the preseason and regular season working hard to get ready for the C-USA Championship race. I am confident that these men will produce their best effort of the season on the biggest stage of the season” said Head Coach Alex Smolka.
The Owls’ first appearance at the C-USA Championships presents new and challenging competition including Charlotte, East Carolina, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UTEP and UTSA. Reigning C-USA Champions the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes will be the team to beat as their men’s team is nationally ranked No. 11 by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
“The new conference will be a true challenge for us” Smolka said. “The quality and depth of the cross country programs is incredible and we certainly have our work cut out for us. I am however confident, just like in the past, that we will be up for the challenge.”
One team FAU has become familiar with is in-stat rival FIU. The men’s and women’s teams have had the opportunity to compete against the Panthers in four of their five-regular season meets. FAU topped FIU in two, including the USF’s Bulls Cross Country Invitational where the Owls claimed victory while the Panthers took third-place. The women’s team has competed and finished ahead of FIU three times this season.
FAU’s women’s team is on track to continue its strong performance this equipped with several conference championship first timers who have produced top finishes throughout the season. Freshman Marla Keyes earned her first collegiate honors in the eighth week of the season when she was named C-USA’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week. She broke into FAU’s all-time top-10 at the Disney Cross Country Classic finishing the 5k in 18:19.92. Keyes also broke into the all-time top-10 in the 6k, posting her best finish for the season, placing third at UCF’s Invitational.
Fellow freshman Brittany Garesio has made a great impact on the team’s overall performance this season. The native of Middletown, CT led the Owls in their season opener finishing the 3,500 meter run in 14:09.41. She posted her personal best in the 6k run at UCF’s Invitational finishing in 13th-place with a final time of 23:45.74.
“We have a very young group of female runners competing at the C-USA Championship. If we are able to go out there and run like I’ve seen us run at practice and throughout the regular season, we will have a result that we can all be proud of” said Smolka.
The Owls’ conference placement will determine whether the men’s and women’s runners will continue on to the NCAA South Regional meet on Nov. 15 in Tuscaloosa, AL.