by Brian DeCandia, sports information graduate assistant
MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. – The Georgia College women’s cross country team is set to race in the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships Saturday, Nov. 20 at 11:15 a.m. held in Charlotte, N.C. The Bobcats will enter six runners into the race and the top five finishes will count towards the team score.
“I am very hopeful that this is going to be our best race all season,” said coach Joe Samprone. “We are approaching full strength and everyone seems to be getting healthier as the week goes on. It is going to be a fast course and everyone is looking forward to the race this weekend.”
The women will race seniors Dani Destiche (Snellville, Ga.), Alex Taylor (Marietta, Ga.) and junior Karissa Ekstrom (Alpharetta, Ga.). Freshmen competing in their first NCAA Southeast Regional will be Andrea Byrnes (Snellville, Ga.), Allison Lones (Kathleen, Ga.) and Ashton Passino (Alpharetta, Ga.).
Last year at the regional championships, Georgia College posted the best finish in school history, the Bobcat women's cross country team took fourth. Senior Heather Raines made the most of her final collegiate race, pacing the Bobcats in 28th overall at 25:19. Raines led Georgia College in five of the seven races last season. Ekstrom was one slot behind in 29th, covering the 6K course in 25:21. Senior Virginia Balkcom was 31st, just four seconds later.
Lones has been a key addition for the Bobcats this season, becoming one of the top runners on the squad in her rookie campaign. She has participated in all seven races, pacing the Bobcats in their last five. Lones crossed the finish line at 25:30 on a tough 6K course at the Peach Belt Conference Championships (PBC), good for an All-PBC Second Team selection. Lones also set the school record for a 5K at the ASU Tri-Meet with a time of 19:13 finishing fifth overall.
Destiche has only participated in four of the seven races this season because of an injured foot but she is back and ready to race. She ran to All-PBC status her freshman year with a 21:15 5K at the PBC Championships. Destiche has paced the Bobcats twice this season, finishing seventh at the Bobcat Invitational and ninth at the Run Fit Invitational. Her best time was 20:20 at the Run Fit Invitational.
Ekstrom has had a solid season running in all seven meets. Her highest finish was fourth at the Young Harris College (YHC) Invitational. She also finished ninth at the ASU Tri-Meet with a time of 19:40, which was her fastest finish of the season.
At the PBC Championships two weeks ago, Ekstrom finished in 16th place with a time of 25:44. Destiche was 27th with a time of 26:38, while Byrnes placed 33rd with a time of 27:21.
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 and www.facebook.com/gcbobcats for up-to-the-minute reports, and visit www.GCBobcats.com for more information, and to nominate your favorite former Bobcats and Colonials to the GC Athletics Hall of Fame.