MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. – Armed with a talented crop of new runners combined with seasoned, quality veterans, the Georgia College & State University cross country teams open up the 2010 schedule Friday, Sept. 10, playing host to the Bobcat Invitational on the West Campus Cross Country Course. The women’s 5K starts at 4 p.m., with the men’s 8K set to start immediately after the first race’s finish.
“We’ve improved on both sides over last season,” said head coach Joe Samprone, “and both teams had outstanding seasons a year ago. The women took second in the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) Meet, with the men battling injuries and illnesses to take fifth.”
On the men’s side senior Tim Cary (Monroe, Ga.) led the team at three races a year ago, and will be challenged by a well-seasoned junior class of Rob Manning (Lawrenceville, Ga.), Travis Knight (Oxford, Ga.) and Colin Conroy (Dacula, Ga.). Also in the mix thanks to strong preseason and offseason conditioning is junior Daniel Horseman (Cohutta, Ga.). Horseman was one of the often-injured runners a season ago, and given the chance to get healthy, could prove to be a leader this season.
A fresh crop of newcomers will take a team that was 5-6 runners deep in 2009, and increase the output to potentially an eight-deep squad. Tyler Mattix (Snellville, Ga.) transfers in from North Georgia, where he was an All-PBC runner a year ago. Mattix comes in as a junior after North Georgia cancelled its cross country program.
“Tyler has both ability and experience at this level,” said Samprone. “Our crop of incoming freshmen has many runners that could take spots in our top five this season. This is the first time they’ve had to run the 8K distance, as high school races are shorter. It’ll be interesting to see who has the endurance.”
The Bobcat men lost one runner that was consistent in the top five, graduated senior Josh Hollar, and add three-or-four runners that could place in the top five, according to Samprone.
On the women’s side, senior captain Dani Destiche (Snellville, Ga.), joins forces with another crop of strong juniors in Karissa Ekstrom (Alpharetta, Ga.), Sarah Balkcom (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Victoria Dobson (New Hamburg, Ontario).
Gone are a trio of strong graduated seniors in Bonnie Nikelin, Virginia Balkcom and Heather Raines. That threesome produced plenty of regular top-five times for the team, including an All-PBC finish for Balkcom in 2009, and a pair of PBC Runner of the Week honors for Raines, now a graduate assistant coach for the ‘Cats.
These runners pulled together a second-place finish at the conference meet, the only runner-up finish in school history. Samprone believes several new freshman will step in to fill their shoes and “neither team will be diminished at all”.
High school female runners compete in 5K races, so rookie runners are more prone to make an immediate impact. “Thanks to a great off-season, a team that was 6-7 runners deep a year ago is now 7-8 runners deep,” according to Samprone.
Catch the Bobcat harriers Friday, Sept. 10 at 4 p.m. on the school’s West Campus.
The Georgia College Department of Athletics, back-to-back winners of the PBC Commissioner's Cup, sponsors 10 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, Bobcat Athletics prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the teams’ multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Sign up at www.twitter.com/GCSUBobcats for up-to-the-minute reports, and visit www.GCSUBobcats.com for more information, and to nominate your favorite former Bobcats and Colonials to the GCSU Athletics Hall of Fame.