Oct. 26, 2010
BEAUMONT, Texas -
The Lamar University men's cross country team will strive for five, while the Lady Cardinals hope to soar to four at Thursday's Southland Conference Championships at the Bayou Din Golf Club in Beaumont.
The men's team will seek its fifth consecutive SLC crown and add to its record of nine Southland championships, while the women will go for their fourth SLC title and first since 2006. The women's race will be a 6-kilometer event that gets under way at 9 a.m. Thursday. The men's race, an 8-kilometer challenge, will start at 9:45 a.m. Both races will be held on the old front nine layout at Bayou Din. The other 18 holes on the 27-hole layout will remain open for golf.
"It's exciting to host the conference meet," Lamar coach Trey Clark said. "We want it to be the best meet. We want to be good and cordial hosts, but being a good host doesn't mean letting someone else win."
Clark believes the Lamar men have a deeper squad than some of the past championship units.
"This is more about the team than the individual," he said. "We're hesitant to say this guy or that guy. We have eight runners who are all capable of turning in an outstanding performance."
Among the Cardinals to watch are junior Tallam Kipruto, who won his first three races this season; Matt Johnsen, who led Lamar with a third-place finish at the Bronco Invitational in Santa Clara, Calif.; and Bob Ahimbisibwe, the Southland Conference Freshman of the Year last season.
"Tallam and Matt have both been Southland Conference Athletes of the Week this fall, and Bob has the experience and is running really well right now," Clark said.
Clark feels McNeese State and Stephen F. Austin will be the top threats to Lamar's reign.
"McNeese has been performing well, while SFA is also ranked in the region," Clark said.
On the women's side, Clark said the Lady Cardinals need to overcome youth and a lack of depth in order to get to the winner's podium.
"We expect people to step up for us," he said. "We're going to need some good performances."
Leading the Lady Cardinals is junior Taylor Cloy, who has been steady all season. Cloy is coming off a 10th-place finish at the Bronco Invitational in Santa Clara.
Sophomore Sam Walkow, last season's Southland Conference Freshman of the Year, has had a strong season. Walkow is experienced in big races, having competed not only at last year's SLC Championships, but at the 2010 World Cross Country Junior Championships, where she represented Canada.
Freshman Katrine Vaesel is a contender for this season's Freshman of the Year Award. Vaesel posted a seventh-place finish at the Mason Invitational at George Mason University in early October.
Clark feels three-time defending champion Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Stephen F. Austin are the teams to beat.
"There's no doubt we've got our work cut out for us," Clark said. "But we're going to give it our best shot."
Admission to Thursday's event is free.