SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The 2019 Southern Conference Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships are set for Saturday, Nov. 2, hosted by ETSU at Pine Oaks Golf Course in Johnson City, Tennessee. The event will begin with the women’s 5K race at 10 a.m., followed by the men’s 8K 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 men’s race.
The Furman cross country teams will look to repeat as champions after both teams took home the team crown last season. The Paladin men and women, who were both selected as preseason favorites by the league’s coaches, have won the past six SoCon Championships. They are led by reigning SoCon Coach of the Year Robert Gary.
On the men’s side, Furman and ETSU currently own four of the top 10 times each in the 8K distance, with the Paladins’ Ryan Adams leading the way with a time of 23:36.8 at the Oregon XC Invitational. Adams was honored as the SoCon men’s runner of the week four times this season, while also being named the men’s runner of the month in September. Samford’s Dillon Dean, who boasts the second-best 8K time of 23:55.4, will look to impress after being honored as the men’s runner of the week twice. ETSU’s Ben Varghese, who notched the first win for the Bucs since 2014, claimed one runner of the week award and currently owns the ninth-best 8K time this season. Wofford’s Josh Hendry was the last men’s runner of the week recipient after posting a time of 25:02.0 at the Royals Cross Country Challenge.
On the women’s side, reigning runner of the year, runner of the month and two-time women’s runner of the week Hannah Steelman of Wofford will look to repeat her impressive performance from last season. The junior holds the fastest 5K time in the conference this season, a 16:48.3 mark set at the Royals Cross Country Challenge. The Paladin women boast six of the top 10 5k times in the conference, led by Gabbi Jennings with a time of 17:10.7 of the Eye Opener Invitational. Jennings has been named the women’s runner of the week three times this season.
The Samford duo of McKenzie Hogue and Mary Grace Strozier have been honored as the league’s women’s runner of the week twice and once, respectively. Strozier holds the third-best 5K time in the conference of 17:29.5, while Hogue comes in at 10th with a time of 18:07.07. Chattanooga’s Mackenzie Jones also made an appearance in the top 10, coming in with the fifth-best 5K time of 17:40.10.
The team competitions will feature several teams challenging the six-time defending-champion Paladins. On the men’s side, ETSU was slated second in the 2019 preseason coaches’ poll, receiving one first-place vote, followed by Samford, who was picked third. UNCG and VMI were close behind in fourth and fifth, respectively. Western Carolina was picked sixth, Mercer seventh, Chattanooga eighth, Wofford ninth and The Citadel 10th.
For the women, Chattanooga was selected second in the preseason poll after finishing second at the 2018 SoCon Championship. Samford was not far back in third, followed by ETSU and Wofford in fourth and fifth, respectively. UNCG was picked sixth, Western Carolina seventh, VMI eighth, Mercer ninth and The Citadel 10th.
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.