BOONE, N.C. - Appalachian State University men’s cross country is set to compete at the 2016 Sun Belt Conference Cross Country Championships in Dothan, Ala. on Saturday, Oct. 29. The men’s 8k race will commence at noon.
“ I am looking forward to lining up a full and healthy squad this race, “ said head coach Michael Curcio. “We’ve been the runner-up that last two years and we hope the third time is a charm. It looks like all the teams in the Sun Belt have had up and down races throughout the season, just as we have. Texas at Arlington still appears to be the odds-on favorite with their top two and good depth. UL Lafayette is much improved from last year and through this season with their top two challenging for individual honors. Also, Texas State has shown some real depth this year. Looks like a tight race with four teams really having a chance to win.”
The men are determined to jump up a spot from their preseason ranking (2nd) to snag their first championship title in cross country.
App State comes into the championships with a 33-14-1 overall record after finishing third at the Covered Bridge Open, winning the Mountains to Sea Duals, placing tenth at the Panorama Farms Invitational and tying for fourth at the HPU VertCross Invitational. So far this fall, the men have faced off against four nationally ranked squads and nine regionally tabbed teams.
The only Sun Belt school the men have competed against this autumn is Coastal Carolina. In both instances, the men dominated the Chanticleers beating them out at the Panorama Farms Invitational and at the HPU VertCross Invitational.
For the 2016 season, the men have appeared on the USTFCCCA Southeast Regional Rankings for five-straight weeks. The Mountaineers were first tabbed on the Southeast Region Preseason List landing at No. 15. For weeks one and two, the men grabbed their highest position (12th). In week three, App State moved down to No. 14 and remained 14th in their last ranking in week four.
App State's Championship Roster
The Black and Gold will be paced by their top seniors Ellis, Anderson and Vandenberg leading into the championship race. All three men have registered top-Mountaineer times in competitions this season. Ellis opened up the year crossing the finish line first for Appalachian at the Covered Bridge Open running the fifth-fastest time of the day. After his performance, the SBC league’s coaches awarded him Runner of the Week on Sept. 8. Vandenberg’s best performance came at the Panorama Farms Invitational where he moved up 27 spots to be the first App State jersey to meet the tape for 42nd. Due to Vandenberg’s outstanding effort, the SBC league’s coaches honored him with Runner of the Week on Sept. 28. Lastly, Anderson shined in two races this season, taking the 6.4k title at the Mountains to Sea Duals and snatching the 8k crown at the HPU VertCross Invitational.
Last Time on the Grass
Appalachian tied for fourth at the HPU VertCross Invitational with 140 team points. Anderson shattered his former PR to seize the 8k title in 25:01.81. The next fastest Mountaineer was Georges who ran a PR of 25:50.80 to take 29th. Next was Vandenberg who crossed the line in 26:02.10 to place 36th. Rounding out App’s top five competitors were Loy in 47th and Shannon in 58th.
Taking a Look Back
At the 2015 Sun Belt Conference Cross Country Championships, Appalachian finished as the runner-up for the second year in a row collecting 66 team points. The Mountaineers were 15 points shy of taking the title away from the first-place team UT Arlington. Ellis was the fastest Mountaineer of the day landing in fourth with a time of 25:40.6, three positions better than his 2014 finish. Striding behind him was Vandenberg, who in his first championship race earned all-conference honors thanks to a sixth-place finish. App State’s third best runner was Kyle McFoy who landed inside the top-15 at No. 13 with an 8k effort of 26:14.60 to receive third team all-conference honors.
The Mountaineers will compete in Cary, N.C. at the 3 Stripes Invitational on Saturday, Nov. 5 hosted by NC State. The men’s 5k run will begin at 11 a.m. at the Wake Med Soccer Complex.