Cross country prepares for NCAA regionalBy Sami Harb | 11/13/2014 5:56pm
The Alabama men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel to Tallahassee, Florida, to compete in the NCAA South Regional Saturday. UA Athletics
In the South region, the men’s and women’s teams will compete against various schools from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee. Coach Dan Waters said the men’s and women’s programs are at different phases of rebuilding, so they have different goals for the regional meet.
“Our women’s team has a realistic shot at making the NCAA meet if they do well at regionals,” Waters said. “It will be tough, but it is a possibility, and that is the goal they’ve set for themselves for this year.”
Junior runner Katelyn Greenleaf said her goals are similar to those of her coach.
“We really want to qualify for nationals,” she said. “We need everyone to have a good solid race for us to do so.”
In order to qualify for the national championship in Terre Haute, Indiana, the women’s team, currently ranked third behind Florida State and Vanderbilt, must make second at regionals. At last year’s regionals, the women narrowly missed second, coming in third behind the Seminoles and Commodores.
If the women are able to break through and win the region in an upset, it would mark the first regional title since the 1978 season and the fourth win for the University.
The men’s team wants to show continued improvement on past seasons. After 14th and 13th place finishes in 2012 and 2013, the men are aiming higher.
“For our men’s team, our goals are to get a top-10 regional finish to show progress ahead of what we’ve done the last two years,” Waters said. “Our men’s team has been a bit inconsistent this year.”
After earning victories in the first two meets of the season, the men stumbled to end the regular season. The team placed 16th in the Paul Short Invitational and landed ninth place at the Crimson Classic. A key reason for the men’s inconsistency has been the intermittency among their top five runners, which account for a team’s score in a cross country race. The men’s team has featured a different top five in each meet it has run this season.
Despite the inconsistency of the men’s team this year, senior Matt Airola has a positive outlook headed into the regional meet.
“We’ve yet to have a meet where we’ve all clicked and run the way we should,” he said. “I feel really confident in our ability do that at this meet.”
While Waters said he hopes to see his teams reach their goals, he only has one expectation.
“Run your race, run it to the best of your ability, keep your focus and leave everything you have out there,” he said. “If we do that, the results will take care of themselves.”