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Cross-country prepares for conference meet, unfamiliar courses

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The Appalachian Online

App State men and women’s cross-country teams found success early on this season, which has prepared them well for their first conference championship meet in the Sun Belt conference in Mobile, Alabama this weekend.

The women’s team has boasted one of the most successful seasons of any fall sports team at App State this year, notching four first-place team finishes in the Hyder-McMahill Invitational at Montreat College, Winthrop Invitational, Blue Ridge Invitational and Lenoir-Rhyne Open. Their victories included an upset of Wake Forest at the Blue Ridge Invitational who was ranked fifth in the southeast region at the time.

“Coming off a win and beating Wake Forest who was ranked fifth regionally, I feel we have some momentum going into the conference meet,” head coach Michael Curcio said. “We had a really good week and we’re fairly excited about it.”

The women Mountaineers have been led all season by sophomore Tristin Van Ord. Van Ord has two second-place finishes under her belt as well as an individual first-place finish at the Winthrop Invitational.

Van Ord was recognized as the first Sun Belt Female Runner of the Week in App State history by earning the title for week of Sept. 24 after achieving a personal five-kilometer record of 17:41 at Winthrop.

In looking toward the Sun Belt Championship, Van Ord said she is optimistic.

“I’m excited for the great competition that will be there,” Van Ord said. “We are definitely going to try to go all out and try to win the whole thing and if not, I’m sure we will do really well. I’m really excited for this weekend. We work as a team and I’m sure we are going to do an awesome job.”

The Mountaineers are currently ranked No. 15 in the Southeast region according to USTFCCCA rankings. In terms of facing Sun Belt opponents this season, the women have only faced Georgia State who they narrowly beat. Georgia State was ranked third in the conference at the time.

“We could finish anywhere from fourth to first in the conference,” Curcio said. “In doing some scouting of the Sun Belt, the tough thing for us is that we haven’t really seen Sun Belt teams this season and I’m not familiar with their courses.”

On the men’s side some newcomers will play a pivotal part in how successful the team is at the conference championship. The men’s team also finished in first place at the Winthrop Invitational and second in the Covered Bridge Open. The men are currently ranked No. 13 in the Southeast region according to USTFCCCA rankings.

“We have two freshmen, a transfer and four returners that I am fairly familiar with, so I’m not sure how these newcomers will react in a conference championship situation,” Curcio said. “We have been up and down all season. I am looking forward to seeing how they do and learning more about them. We will if these guys can rise to the occasion.”

To lead the men this season, juniors Michael Ellis and Kyle McFoy have both shared success at different points of the season.

Ellis claimed the individual title at the Winthrop Invitational with a time of 25:36 in an eight-kilometer race to lead the Mountaineers to a first place finish. At the Covered Bridge Open, McFoy finished fifth overall to lead the Mountaineers to a second-place finish with a time of 21:08 in a 6,400-meter race.

“I think we are coming along pretty strong right now in the season,” Ellis said. “I think we just all need to come together for a good race and we will be set for conference. The big thing for us is that we haven’t raced anyone in our conference yet. We can only look at race stats but we don’t know the courses that they have raced at.”

Both the men and women’s teams will race Sunday at the USS Alabama Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama. At last year’s Sun Belt championship, UT-Arlington took the title for the men and Arkansas State claimed the women’s title.

Story: Bryant Barbery, Sports Reporter

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