Cross Country Heads to Championships Saturday
Courtesy: GoMocs.com
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- Between them, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's and women's cross country teams have 11 Southern Conference championships. This weekend, both teams will head to Charleston, S.C., for the 2011 SoCon Cross Country Championships to be run at Trophy Lake.

Seniors Chris Berry (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Tara Gietema (Knoxville, Tenn.) will lead the Mocs around the course.

Berry, a three-time all-conference performer, has placed no worse than fourth in his three championships and was fourth last year as well as in his SoCon Freshman of the Year season. Berry has led the Mocs in every meet this season and placed fourth at the Vanderbilt Commodore Classic and was 26th at the Greater Louisville Class posting his best time of the season of 24:37.01. He is ranked sixth in the league standings in the 8-kilomter with that time.

Joining Berry on the course is 2010 SoCon Freshman of the Year Lucas Cotter (Collierville, Tenn.). Cotter finished 10th at the Commodore Classic and was just behind Berry at Louisville with a time of 24:37.02, seventh-best in the SoCon standings.

Sophomore Mark Cole (McKenzie, Tenn.) has stepped up for the Mocs. He was the third UTC finisher across the line at the Commodore Classic in 25th and bested his time by nearly one minute at the Lousville Classic with a mark of 25:18.

Nathan Wanuch (Mississauga, Ontario) is running his second season for the Mocs. He placed 12th at Vanderbilt's race then followed that up by improving him time at the Greater Louisville Classic.

Freshman Drew Austell (Eads, Tenn.) has made the step from track to cross country. A middle distance runner, Austell has stepped in to fill the shoes left empty by junior Joshue Vasquez who suffered a season-ending injury early in the season. Austell improved his 8K time by nearly 30 seconds in just his second race.

The Mocs have ranked as high as fourth in the NCAA South Region and are currently sitting sixth behind top-ranked Florida State, Georgia, Florida, Georgia Tech and Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders edged the Mocs in the season finale Front Runner Invitational hosted by UTC. The Mocs are ranked ahead of Auburn, Mississippi, region host Alabama as well as Kennesaw State, North Florida and Tennessee.

Gietema, an all-conference performer, helped the Lady Mocs to back-to-back Southern Conference titles in 2007 and 2008. She placed fifth in the Lady Mocs' 2007 championship season. This season she led the Lady Mocs to a third place finish at the Tennessee Tech Invitational placing fourth in the 5-kiometer race.

This weekend's championship race will be the first for the remaining members of the squad. Newcomer Sarah White-Woerner (Chattanooga, Tenn.) has provided a strong back-up to Gietema. She posted a time of 19:44 at the Commodore Classic and followed that with an eighth place finish at the Tennessee Tech Invitational.

Morgan Buchanan (Johnson City, Tenn.) is a consistent third runner for the Mocs. She was the second Chattanooga runner across the line at the Tennessee Tech Invitational. Freshman Keeley Stewart (Winchester, Tenn.) and newcomer Jenna Nick (Columbia, Tenn.) are joined in the lineup by freshman Jessica Philpott (Manchester, Tenn.) and track athlete Gabby Cader (Cleveland, Tenn.).

The Appalachian State men and the Samford women will be on hand Saturday to defend their respective titles at the Trophy Lakes course in Charleston, S.C. the men's 8K race will begin at 10:00 a.m. followed by the women's 5K. The awards ceremony will conclude the championships.

The Appalachian State men are looking to defend their Southern Conference title and win their seventh consecutive conference championship. The Mountaineers were tabbed as the preseason favorites in the coaches' poll, finishing just ahead of UNCG. Appalachian State returned three runners who finished in the top 20 at the conference championship last fall, Will Raby, Alex Taylor and Chris Moen.

UNCG, who finished 11-points behind the Mountaineers last year, is looking to claim this year's title behind the strong running of Paul Chelimo who has the fastest time on an 8K course this season. Chelimo is a two-time Runner of the Week and was honored as the Runner of the Month for September.

The Samford women are seeking their third straight conference title this weekend. The Bulldogs were picked to finish second, behind preseason favorite UNCG. Lauren D'Alessio leads Samford and has the fastest time on a 5K course this season. The junior finished second at last year's championship.

UNCG returns senior Ashley Schnell, who claimed the 2010 Southern Conference Women's crown. As a team, the Spartans finished third last year.

On the men's side, seven of the top 10 finishers from the 2010 championship return, while five women in the top 10 from last season's championship are set to compete.

For complete results and photos from the championship, log onto www.soconsports.com.

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