Oct. 28, 2012
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - On Monday morning, the Tulane cross country teams will start their postseason at the Conference USA championships. Hosted by Southern Miss, the women will take off first on their 5K course at 9 a.m. with the men following on their 8K course at 10 a.m.
"Our whole focus is growth and development on both sides," said Tulane Head Coach Eric Peterson on heading into Monday's meet.
Two weeks ago at the Crimson Classic in Alabama, the women's team performed well despite Tulane's inability to place after Callie Turlington was taken out of the race due to heat exhaustion. Sophomore Paige Callahan led the team with an impressive 17th place finish out of 135 runners, recording a season best time of 18:12.82. Seniors Katherine Crabtree and Emmi Aguillard finished in the top 60 runners. Freshman Mikayla Sonneborn finished the regular season with a career fastest time of 19:44.71.
"I'm very pleased with the way the top four athletes ran in Alabama," said Peterson. "We've been just staying the course, continuing to work on their fitness and start focusing more on a racing strategy. We have a couple of seniors in the lineup, and they're focused on finishing their cross country careers strong."
Their performance at the Crimson Classic earned them 12th place as a team out of 13. Manion led the team with a 52nd place finish with sophomore Geoff Zelek not far behind. The three freshmen who competed, Jack White, Adam Yohanan, and Nicholas Meloro, all finished in the top 100. Senior Michael Villasin closed out the team with his 102nd place finish.
"I think there's a lot to learn after the race in Alabama," Peterson said. "It was important for us at that time to run against a more competitive field than what we had been exposed to earlier in the season. It's just a real eye opener for the guys as young as they are and as inexperienced as they are about how much focus, attention and energy it's going to take on Monday to be successful."
The main focus for the men's team heading into their postseason: experience. With four freshmen and two sophomores, including their leader Mark Manion, the squad looks to gain experience in their first or second conference championship.
"The team is so inexperienced, and Mark is too," Peterson said. "The goal really as we're building this program is to give these guys some experience and something to look forward to; challenge them and see how they do."
Last year at the Conference USA championships, the Tulane's men team finished 8th out of 8 teams and the women's team finished 9th out of 12 teams.
"We certainly know what we're up against," said Peterson. "Right now, we're trying to get all of our athletes to each have outstanding individual races and see how that washes out in the results in the end. As we move forward and continue to improve, I know we're going to get a lot better."
Following this race, the team will have a week off before heading to Fayetteville, Ark., to compete in the NCAA South Central Regional Championships on November 10.
Fans can follow the Green Wave cross country/track and field program on Twitter (@GreenWaveTkFld) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TulaneXCTF.