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UNF Spinnaker

UNF's #1 Student-Run News Source

UNF Spinnaker

    Running into the new season

    The men’s and women’s cross country teams are hitting the trail to get ready for the season, which starts with a dual meet Sept. 2 at Jacksonville University.

    The teams have six meets scheduled before the A-Sun Conference Championship in Nashville Oct. 29, four of which will be in the state of Florida. The other two are the Appalachian State Invitational in Boone, N.C. and the Indiana State Pre-Nationals Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind.

    Coach Mark VanAlstyne said the schedule will provide great competition and help evaluate the overall talent, so he can put together the best team for the conference and national championship meets.

    “We want to make sure that the athletes we take on the bus give us the best chance to win and advance to later rounds,” he said.

    This season brings great expectations for both teams. The men were picked to finish third in the A-Sun preseason rankings, while the women were picked to repeat as champions. VanAlstyne said while the rankings are “awesome,” he tries not to pay attention and would rather be the underdog.

    With the ISU Invitational on the schedule, it will help prepare the team for the NCAA championship, also in Terre Haute, Indiana. Last year, both teams finished 11th at the NCAA regional.

    Both teams are made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores. However, the team does have some experience, as both teams lost a total of only one person from last year.

    “It’s not like we’re rebuilding and starting over,” VanAlstyne said.

    New talent comes to the teams in different ways. The new faces on the men’s team are primarily 800 meter runners who have turned to cross country, and VanAlstyne knows there will be a period of adjustment and development.

    VanAlstyne feels the women’s team is the deeper of the two. “It’s a pleasant surprise at how quickly [the new recruits] will become contributors.”

    Two of the best performers during workouts were Elle Baker, a freshman from Melbourne, Fla., and Alessandra Valdes, another freshman from Miami.

    Meggie Emons, a physical therapy junior, knows where the women’s team is and where they have to go.

    “[Coach VanAlstyne] knows which races to race and which races we’ll take easier so we’re prepared for the A-Sun Championship,” she said.

    Emons said the team is set up to defend the conference championship and place better at the NCAA regionals, since the top seven runners from last year are returning.

    With the men, it’s a little different. Cameron Dickerson, a senior psychology major, said their schedule focuses more on workouts than racing.

    “It’s going to benefit us come championship season,” he said. “We’ve got some bigger meets on the schedule.”

    While the team is excited about the season to come, there’s still some lingering memories of last year.

    “We had a disappointing finish, we had a few lapses,” Dickerson said of their finish at last year’s conference championship, where they finished behind some teams that they beat earlier in the year.

    He said the finish created negative momentum heading into regionals, leading to an unbalanced effort.

    “We weren’t really ready,” he said.

    The sentiment going into the new year, however, is that the Ospreys are ready to improve.

    “My toughest job will be deciding who makes the top seven, which is a good situation to be in,” VanAlstyne said.

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