Sept. 13, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - A new course is in store for the Tulane cross country program, despite competing in a familiar meet, as the team will travel to Mobile, Ala., for the South Alabama Azalea City Cross Country Classic, hosted by the Jaguars, on Saturday morning at the Mobile County Fairgrounds.
Results will be posted on TulaneGreenWave.com immediately after the meet. The men will run an 8K beginning at 7:30am CT, while the women will follow with a 6K at 8:15am CT.
Eleven teams, including Tulane and South Alabama, will participate in the weekend's event. Alabama State, Millsaps, Mobile, New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana, Troy, Louisiana-Lafayette, William Carey and the women's team from Alabama-Birmingham will take to the Mobile County Fairgrounds looking for a victory. There will be a new champion crowned this year, as the defending champion Auburn Tigers will not compete during this year's race.
Tulane is coming off an off week after competing in the UNO XC Relay on Aug. 30. At that meet, Tulane won dual meets against UNO, Southeastern and Nicholls State on both the women's and men's side.
This week will bring a new challenge to the season, as Saturday's race is a traditional cross country meet that the team will see throughout the remainder of the season.
"Obviously, we are excited to go out to this meet and compete in a meet that is going to test our kids in their championship-level distances," said Tulane director of cross country and track and field Eric Peterson. "The first meet was an icebreaker and an opportunity for everyone to get excited about putting their uniforms on and going out to compete. We are happy that we won those meets, but this one is going to be a better test for the team against some strong competition at distances that matter for our runners."
While the Green Wave competed in last year's Azalea City Classic, the meet was held at the Brookley Pines Golf Course.
"(The change in the course) does not change our preparation, but it will have an unpredictable impact on the outcome of the race," stated Peterson. "We don't know what the footing is going to be like. It does look like there are going to be a lot of turns on the course, which will slow the pace down. But we need to prepare for cross country races of this distance."
Saturday's meet will mark the first time Tulane's true freshmen of Sara Kebede, Katharine Smiley, Allison Wegner, Kade Kistner, Andrew Martz and new team member Jack Curtis will run in a regular collegiate cross country meet.
"I'm really excited for the freshmen," mentioned Peterson. "I think that Sara Kebede and Katharine Smiley on the women's side and Kade Kistner and Andrew Martz on the men's side have already added a lot to the team on a daily basis in practice. We are expecting for them to make an immediate impact on the team, so this is a great opportunity for them to mix it up."
At the UNO XC Relay, sophomore Mikayla Sonneborn was part of a pair of runners that paced the women's side of the competition, finishing first out of a field of 12 pairings with a 6K time of 23:43.28. Kebede and Smiley were grouped together, finishing third with a time of 24:21.64. Senior Callie Turlington and Wegner placed sixth, posting a time of 24:52.45.
For the men, Tulane will look for strong performances from a group of seasoned veterans and some freshmen who competed for the first time collegiately just two weeks ago. Sophomore Adam Yohahan teamed up with Kistner to place first out of 15 pairings at the UNO XC Relay, finishing in 20:12.17. They were joined at the finish line by third-place finishers Jack White and Geoff Zelek (20:30.99) and a group that contained Martz (21:02.57).
Two notable runners will not make the trip to Mobile, Ala., as they are battling very minor injuries. Juniors Paige Callahan and Mark Manion will stay back in New Orleans and rest in preparation for the team's next meet.
"We are going in a little shorthanded," added Peterson. "Without these two frontrunners, it is going to provide an opportunity for the competitive dynamic on our team to change for the first time in the last couple of years. I'm excited to see who is going to step forward and lead. I'm also curious to see how kids who are maybe more accustomed to running in a two, three or four spot how this changes their approach mentally and competitively."
Despite losing the two top runners from last year's squad for this weekend's meet, Peterson believes he has the personnel that will step up to the challenge of leading the pack.
"I've seen a tremendous amount of growth in both Mikayla (Sonneborn) and Adam (Yohanan), not only in their physical development - even though they are both in way better shape than I have seen them before - but also in demonstrating some really good leadership characteristics," stated Peterson. "With Paige and Mark missing practice, both Mikayla and Adam have stepped up to be consistently good. The natural conclusion might be for them to step into the (number one) role. We are looking for a very strong and healthy competitive environment on the team."
Following the completion of the meet, Tulane will have another week off before heading west to Lake Charles, La., for the McNeese Invitational on Sept. 28.
Fans can follow the Tulane track and field and cross country programs on Twitter (@GreenWaveXCTF) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TulaneXCTF.
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