SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The 2018 Southern Conference Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships are set for Saturday, Oct. 27, at Western Carolina in Cullowhee, North Carolina. The event will begin with the men’s 8K race at 10 a.m., followed by the women’s 5K race at 10:45 a.m. An awards ceremony, which will honor the top team and individual performances, will follow at the conclusion of the women’s race.
Furman will look to continue its reign as the SoCon defending champions. The Paladin men and women, who were both selected as preseason favorites by the league’s coaches, have won the past five SoCon Championships. They are led by reigning head coach of the year Robert Gary.
On the men’s side, the Paladins boast the top four times in the 8K distance, with reigning SoCon men’s runner of the year, Aaron Templeton, leading the way with a time of 23:50.99 at the Pre-NCAA Invitational. Templeton was honored as the SoCon men’s runner of the week twice this season, while teammate and 2017 freshman of the year Daniel Bernal was honored once. Templeton won the individual title last year with a time of 23:43.9.
Samford’s Dillion Dean will look to break through the pack of Paladins as he currently holds the fifth-fastest 8K time in the conference. Dean was honored as men’s runner of the week once this season. He has placed in the top five in all of the races he’s competed in this season, with his best 8K finish coming on Oct. 12 at the UAB Blazer Classic, where he came in fifth overall.
On the women’s side, sophomore standout and 2017 freshman runner of the year Hannah Steelman of Wofford will challenge the Paladins as she holds the fastest 5K time in the conference. Her fastest time this year came on Oct. 12 at the Royals XC Challenge in Charlotte, North Carolina, when she stopped the clock at 16:27.00.
Steelman will be closely followed by a pack of Paladins including Gabbi Jennings and Savannah Carnahan, who each were named female runner of the week once this season. Jennings claimed the individual title on Aug. 31, at the Eye Opener Invitational with a time of 17:53.3. Her fastest time came at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational when she crossed the finish line at 16:55.46. Fellow Paladin Savannah Carnahan just edged out Jennings for Furman’s top female runner when she crossed the finish line at 16:47.17 on Sept. 28 at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational.
The team competitions will feature a number of teams challenging the five-time defending-champion Paladins. On the men’s side, ETSU was slated second in the 2018 preseason coaches’ poll, receiving one vote, followed by Samford, who was picked third. Chattanooga will also have the chance to vie for the overall title as it finished fourth in the 2017 SoCon Championship and was picked to finished fourth in the preseason poll. VMI was picked fifth, UNCG sixth, Western Carolina seventh, Wofford eighth, The Citadel ninth and Mercer, 10th.
For the women, ETSU was also selected second in the preseason poll after finishing third at the 2017 SoCon Championship. The Bucs are led Lindsey Stallworth who was honored as female runner of the week once this season. Samford, Chattanooga, UNCG, Wofford, Western Carolina, Mercer, VMI and The Citadel were selected third through 10th, respectively.
Admission to the event is free. For complete results, photos, highlights and more from the championship, click here to visit the SoCon Cross Country Championships page.