Nov. 1, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - All of the work put in this season by the Tulane cross country program will come to a head on Saturday as the Green Wave will travel to Denton, Texas, site of the 2013 Conference USA Cross Country Championship, hosted by North Texas.
A crew of 11 runners - five women and six men - will travel to the championship meet, to be held at the Eagle Point Cross Country Course. The men's 8K race will begin at 9am CT, with the women following with their 5K race at 10am CT.
Results will be posted on TulaneGreenWave.com after the completion of the race.
The Green Wave are having one of their better seasons in recent memory, as the women's squad placed first at the McNeese State Cowboy Stampede in late September after both the men's and women's side winning a quad-meet at UNO to start the season. Most recently, Tulane was in Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the Crimson Classic on Oct. 18.
Saturday's race, however, will pit the Green Wave against a large field - comparable to what was seen at the Crimson Classic - that will include 15 women's squads and 13 men's teams.
"The thing that I am mostly looking forward to is to hopefully see the continued development of all of the young athletes in our program," said the director of Tulane cross country and track and field, Eric Peterson. "I have really high hopes for all of the freshmen and sophomore-level kids in the program."
The Green Wave have seen the likes of freshmen Sara Kebede and Katharine Smiley and sophomore Mikayla Sonneborn have success on the season, while the men's side has showcased underclassmen Kade Kistner and Jack Curtis - both freshmen - and sophomores Jack White, Adam Yohanan and Nicholas Meloro.
While Peterson is looking forward to having the younger student-athletes run in their first championship-level races, the coach is also ready to watch his older student-athletes lead the way, as well.
"I expect a little more from the juniors and seniors because they have more experience, but when you get down to it, that's only Paige (Callahan) and Callie (Turlington) on the women's side and Geoff (Zelek) on the men's side," added Peterson.
Zelek ran a 26:22.52 at the Azalea City Classic back in early September for a new personal best, while finishing the Crimson Classic with a time of 27:24.68. Turlington is having a solid season, too, and she knows what it means to turn it up a notch at the championship level, as she posted her personal best time in the 5K at the 2010 Conference USA Championship with a time of 18:58.00.
Callahan, though, has led the Green Wave in three of the four meets this season, excluding the one she missed due to injury. She finished fourth at the McNeese State Cowboy Stampede with a time of 18:19.76.
"Geoff, up to this point in time, is probably one of the most improved athletes in our program," stated Peterson. "Callie is running well, too. Unfortunately, Paige is going into this race a little ill and banged up. But she has a lot of experience, and she is mature, and she is going to do everything she can to be what she can be."
While Yohanan has paced the men's team in all four races this season, including a sixth-place finish at the Azalea City Classic in which he posted a personal best 25:25.75, Peterson is intrigued by the abilities of the younger runners on the men's side.
"In terms of the younger kids on the team, I'm excited for every one of them," said Peterson. "On the men's side, I know that Kade and Jack White are capable of running with Geoff, or even closing that gap that exists between Geoff and Adam. If they can do that, and Adam can continue to lead the team as he has done all season, then we are going to have our best day in that scenario."
Throughout most of the season, Tulane has had the fortune of competing on flat surfaces, similar to Audubon Park, where the team trains on a daily basis. The Eagle Point Cross Country Course is similar to what the Green Wave practice on, which could work in favor of the squad.
"You very rarely get to run on a course that is flat as a pancake," added Peterson. "We haven't seen this course before, but from what we have heard from other coaches is that it will be a very fast course, and a course that I think will be very good for our kids. But, it doesn't change the competitive challenge. You're still running against other teams who feel the same about the course."
Despite a minor setback at the Crimson Classic by the Green Wave, Peterson is thrilled to take his team to compete in their biggest meet of the year.
"I think our kids have learned a lot from their experience in Alabama, and we are looking forward to going to Texas to put together our best race," said Peterson.
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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