Nov. 8, 2012
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Tulane cross country runners are set to take to the course on Friday morning for what could be their last competition of the season. As the only squad headed to Agri Park in Arkansas, the women will begin their race at 11 a.m. Mark Manion serves as the sole Green Wave male runner and will take off at 12:15 p.m. For the first time all year, Manion will be covering 10 kilometers in his race as opposed to the usual 8 kilometers; and the women will be running 6 kilometers for the second time this year instead of 5 kilometers.
Teams and individuals have the opportunity to qualify for the National Championship according to their performances. The top two teams from each of the nine regions will automatically qualify for the team national finals. The next thirteen teams to compete at Nationals will be selected at large."
"It's all based on regional place finish.," explains Tulane Head Coach Eric Peterson. "So if you have a bad day at Regionals, it doesn't matter how good of a season you've had, you're out. But that's something we're looking at in the future."
With steady improvement all season and in the last few years, the women's team hopes to recreate the same magic they had at the Conference Championships. Three of the six female runners recorded personal bests in Mississippi freshman Mikayla Sonneborn, senior Emmi Aguillard, and the team's leader sophomore Paige Callahan. Callahan ended the day with an impressive 19th place finish out of 89 runners. Along with senior AKtherine Crabtree's season best, and juniors Callie Turlington and Aimee Arceneaux's performance, the team took home seventh place out of twelve teams: their best finish since 2007.
"I'm feeling really good about that team right now, especially after the Conference USA championship," says Peterson. "I really felt that we beat everyone in the conference that we are capable of beating right now. The teams that finished in front of us are teams that we had lost to earlier in the season or we don't really match up that well with. This team needs to go and compete and challenge ourselves at the next level to see how we stack up at this time in our development. If we run the way we did in the conference meet, then we should naturally be showing continued improvement. I certainly expect that from the team"
Manion also ran a personal best time last week at the conference championships finishing 38th out of 62 runners. This individual venture should serve as a good test of his abilities.
"I know it's different that we're going to be approaching this as an individual situation for him," Peterson says. "Ultimately at the very highest level of cross country, it's an individual sport, and this is part of his maturation process as an athlete. He's been this team's leader. It's time for him to go out and test himself individually against the rest of the region and to see what he's able to achieve."
As for the two extra kilometers he has to run, and the extra kilometer for the women: it shouldn't be a big deal.
"That's just a change; something different than what we've been doing," says Peterson.
"I think Paige has the best opportunity to potentially qualify for nationals. That would be a big step for her. We are still in the mindset of that consistent improvement is what we want to see from our team. We got that at the conference meet from both the women's team and from Mark. It's appropriate for them to be competing at Regionals"
Competing against the women will be 23 other teams including Conference-USA members SMU and Rice. Manion will face runners from 21 other teams. At last years qualifying South Central Regional Championship, as a team the women finished 18th out of 23 teams with Callahan taking 68th amongst the 149 runners and the team's fastest time. Manion placed 92nd in the same competition.
"The women have had further development than our men's team frankly. They're going into it with a mindset of: Can we improve individually and as a team from years past, just like we did at the conference meet? Obviously my hope is that we're going to get that done." Should the team or an individual qualify for the NCAA National Championships, the meet will be held on November 17 in Louisville, Kentucky.
You can follow the Green Wave cross country/track and field program on Twitter (@GreenWaveTkFld) or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TulaneXCTF.