Tulane cross country and track and field director Eric Peterson addresses his cross country program during their first meeting of the 2014 season
NEW ORLEANS - With the 2014 campaign just under two weeks away, Tulane's cross country program held their first team meeting of the season on Monday afternoon in the Hertz Center three days after reporting to campus.
Twenty-two women and eight men who will compete for the Green Wave this fall were in attendance, as they met with Tulane cross country and track and field director Eric Peterson, along with other key Tulane athletics personnel.
After meeting, the team held their first practice of the season at Audubon Park, where they will spend many days leading up to the first meet of the season in Clinton, Mississippi, on Aug. 30 for the Mississippi College Season Opener.
"We've all been eager to get back at it, and my initial assessment of the team is that everybody worked very hard over the summer," stated Peterson. "I'm impressed with the general level of fitness that everybody has returned with."
Mississippi is one of the closer regular-season meets the team will participate in this season, as they will also head to the likes of South Carolina for the Furman XC Classic on Sept. 13, Pennsylvania for the Paul Short Run at Lehigh University on Oct. 4 and Alabama for the Alabama Crimson Classic on Oct. 17. Additionally, the team will head to Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Sept. 27 for the McNeese Cowboy Stampede.
Tulane's first American Athletic Conference Championship will be held at Mohawk Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Oct. 31. Tulane hopes to be running well after that, as well, as the NCAA South Central Regional will be held in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Nov. 14.
"We have a nice mixture of some athletes that are returning with some experience, coupled with probably the most talented incoming class that we have had in the past five years," added Peterson of his team.
Returning to the team for the 2014 season is the reigning LSWA Co-Freshman of the Year in Katharine Smiley, who had an outstanding season for the Green Wave in 2013. The native of Danville, California, led the team at the Conference USA Championship 5K last November with a time of 19:03.63. Her personal best, however, came at the Alabama Crimson Classic 5K in mid-October where she ran an 18:52.61. Smiley also had the opportunity in February of this year to compete at the US Junior National Championships, running a 24:27 in the 8K to place 21st overall.
Upperclassmen Paige Callahan and Mikayla Sonneborn will also help lead the way, as they both turned in solid season for the Green Wave in 2013. Add in sophomores Sara Kebede, who made significant contributions to the team in her rookie seasons, to go along with the freshman group of Emily-Kathryn Hoey, Emma Newton, Merritt Miller, Lauren Bartels, Madeline Held and Emily Bedell, and the women's side of the roster gives reason for excitement for the upcoming season.
"The women's team is a really interesting group of people," mentioned Peterson. "We return Paige, Katharine - who really led us last year as a freshman - Sara and Mikayla who are all capable and strong. We are adding a group of young freshmen who I think will be able to step in and contribute to the team right away. These are six athletes who will create a completely different atmosphere in practice while having the opportunity to contribute to a much-improved cross country program."
One of the surprises of the fall could be junior Jessica Adamson, who has yet to compete in a cross country meet for the team during her first two years on campus. The redshirt sophomore had a stellar track and field season for the Green Wave in 2014, and Peterson hopes that can carry over onto the cross country circuit.
"Jessica really trained hard over the summer in a different way she ever has before," said Peterson. "Her fitness level is very high. She has absolutely zero cross country experience, but I do think she is someone who can help our team."
While the men's roster doesn't boast as high of a number of runners as the women's side, they do have some heavy hitters in the mix, including junior Jack White, coming off a breakout season as a sophomore last year. The Fairfield, Connecticut, native turned in personal-best times in the 8K (26:15.39) and the 10K (34:43) during the 2013 season. Joining White in the ranks of the upperclassmen are senior Geoff Zelek - who led the team at the 2013 NCAA South Central Regional 10K with a personal-best time of 33:31 - junior Nicholas Meloro - who ran a personal-best 35:15 in the 10K at the NCAA South Central Regional last season - and redshirt junior Mark Manion - who missed the latter half of the 2013 season with an injury. Sophomore Kade Kistner will also be looking to build upon a strong freshman season.
Joining the veterans are three newcomers that are poised to make a splash early out of the gate. Redshirt Freshman Moses Aloiloi (Republic of Kenya) and freshman Charlie Frishberg (San Diego) will compete alongside sophomore Chris Lowery, who transferred to Tulane from Oklahoma City College. Lowery had a very nice freshman season in his home state, helping lead the OCC to their first appearance in the NAIA Cross Country Championship. During the meet, he placed 22nd overall in the 8K with a time of 25:04.
"Moses was here last spring but redshirted during the track season, and Chris Lowery is a very strong transfer student," said Peterson. "Chris was the top freshman finisher at the NAIA Cross Country Championship on a challenging course in Lawrence, Kansas. Moses is very talented. He has run in the 24:40 range in the 8K. We are just looking for those two athletes to not only inject a lot of talent to the team, but to lead them as well."
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