Vikings open 2011 cross country season Saturday when they host the Berry College Invitational
By: Alice Coughlin
Similarly to how every run and every race holds a different kind of importance for its participants, so does the outset of a new season. Each runner differs with their own personal goals, their educational journey, their experience in running and their hopes for this season. But one common trait of each runner is the desire to be part of a cohesive team which pursues improvement and personal records on the cross country course. In order to accurately look ahead to the coming season, looking back on the 2010 cross country season also holds merit for a sport which is continuously focused on time improvements and numbers.
Berry's cross country teams represent a strong group of returning runners eager to lace up their spikes. Seniors of the women's team include Sara Walcott, Jenn Cook, Lauren Hicks, Casey Norris, Ellery Jones, Alice Coughlin and a new addition to the group after playing on Berry's soccer team a year ago is Brooke Hoppemeyer. Both Walcott and Cook earned their fastest 5K times at the Southeast Classic in 19:02 and 18:36, respectively. Hicks also raced her season best at the Southeast Classic in a time of 21:50. Jones raced to her season best at the Darlington Open 5K in 21:52. Norris and Coughlin were unable to compete in any races due to injuries; however, Norris shows promise for superb racing potential this season.
Representing the junior class on the women's team is Lauren Nation, who raced at the Young Harris Invitational in a time of 23:55 for the 5K. The three sophomore runners include Charlotte Collins, Allison Preg and Katy Jordan. Collins and Jordan ran their best times of the season at the Southeast Classic, Collins at 20:13 and Jordan in 22:50 for the 5K race. Preg raced her best 5K time of 21:05 at the Memphis Twilight meet.
Returning senior runners for the men's team includes Blake Bannister, Ian Adams, Bert Harrison and Chase Babineaux. All the seniors who participated in last year's cross country season raced season bests in blazing fast times at the Southeast Classic. Bannister came in at 27:01 for the 8K race, Harrison crossed the finish line at 26:08 and Adams secured a time of 26:21. After not running during the 2010 cross country season, Babineaux anticipates this next season with the team.
From the junior class are Michael Sexton, Lucas Stocks, William "Boots" Anthony and Chris White. White and Anthony, like most of the men's team runners, ran their season bests at the Southeast Classic. White ran an 8K time of 29:53 and Anthony secured a time of 27:40 in the race. Both Sexton and Stocks ran their season best at the Memphis Twilight Invitational. Sexton raced a time of 25:07 and Stocks raced to a time of 29:11 for the 8K race.
The men's team sophomores participating this season include Ryan James and Brandon Davis. During his incredibly successful freshman year in the 2010 season, James ran his season best at the Southeast Classic in a time of 25:50. Davis also ran his season best during that race in a time of 28:10.
Although the team graduated 11 runners, it has also gained six freshmen women and one freshman for the men's team. Freshman Hibah Abuhamdieh hails from the United Arab Emirates, representing an international addition for the team with a 5K personal record of 21:41. Also from out-of-state is Annika Stryker from West Jessamine High School of Nicholasville, Ky. Stryker's 5K cross country personal record is 23:49.
Leslie Stewart, from Alexander High School in Douglasville, Ga., comes to Berry with a 5K personal record of 20:30. And freshman Nicole Fredette of the Marist School in Dunwoody owns a 5K personal record of 21:17. Courtney Barker, from McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, comes in with a 5K personal record of 22:20 and an impressive track 800 meter personal record of 2:24. Kayla Heflin of North Hall High School in Gainesville joins her freshmen women's team cohorts with a personal record of 25:39 for a 5K. Zack Jordan, representing the lone frosh for the men's team, was home schooled and represents Ball Ground, Ga. with a 5K personal best of 17:26.
Both the men's and women's teams look forward to their first race at home on Sept. 10 at the Berry College Invitational. The seniors undoubtedly look to their final collegiate cross country season as one to take advantage of, both in regards to the competitive atmosphere and the invaluable support of a close-knit team, which has essentially become family. For the group of junior runners, it is looking at this season as a chance to position themselves well for the future, in both running and their upcoming leadership roles. The sophomores of the team have the opportunity to collectively take everything they learned last year about collegiate running and a college education and thrive with their newfound experience and wisdom. For freshmen runners, this is their opportunity to break away from high school running and start anew in a fresh and changed racing environment.
Starting on Sep. 10, personal running records will be sought, collegiate running careers will begin and a season of great hope and anticipation will commence for the Berry College cross country teams.
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