Sept. 12, 2013
BEAUMONT – With a slew of newcomers looking to set the tone, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams are aiming to impress as the squads will begin the 2013 season in earnest on Friday evening at the Justin F. Cooper Memorial Rice Invitational in Houston.
The women’s team features 10 new faces, including the duo of Kayla de Bondt and Leigh Lattimore. The pair combined to take home the McNeese Relays crown a fortnight ago in Lake Charles, and cross country coach Darren Gauson feels that they’ll be joined by a number of fellow standout Lady Cardinals as the team looks to reclaim the Southland glory it last achieved in 2006.
“Louise Webb, Rachel Robinson and Claire Arnold will all be opening up their season this week,” Gauson explained. “They’ll run with Leigh and Kayla, who obviously had a good showing a couple weeks ago. I think Louise has really improved a lot since she’s come down here. She’s in really good shape, and I’d expect her to be up there and close to the front part of the race. Both Rachel and Claire have also made some good strides since they got here, and I expect them to be competitive as well. We’re just looking to put down an early season marker to see where we are and how we measure up.”
The men used last month’s McNeese meet as a training session, so the Rice meet serves as the true opening to the 2013 season. Contrary to the women, the men will look to place a bulk of responsibility on a trio of veterans, beginning with 2012 All-American Matt Johnsen, who placed 33rd at the NCAA National Championships a year ago. Juniors Ryan Creech and Sam Stabler, winner of the 2011 SLC Freshman of the Year award, will also look to make an impact as well.
“Matt might be the only All-American in the race on Friday,” Gauson said. “I think his leadership, experience and knowledge of the course will be invaluable. Sam and Ryan are both coming off really good outdoor track seasons, so they have a lot of momentum there. Ash Harrell
, who missed last season, had a good summer, and Michael Kershaw
is in great shape after having some injuries in the spring.”
Like the women, Gauson also expects a lot out his newcomers at the meet.
“I’m really excited to see Sean Guiney get out there after coming off the World Junior Cross Country Championships earlier this year,” Gauson said. “I would expect him to perform well, along with someone like Ryan Saunders, who was 10th at the European Championships. He’s healthy, and he’ll hopefully be close with some of our returners. Sean Chalmers is a freshman, and he’s had some good workouts, and Matt Jackson is in the process of getting fit and healthy.”
The men are currently ranked fourth in the South Central Region by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, trailing SEC members Arkansas and Texas A&M as well as Texas of the Big XII. The Cards saw their streak of six consecutive Southland titles snapped by McNeese a year ago, and they will be looking for revenge this season against the Cowboys, who enter the season ranked fifth in the region.
The Lamar women are ranked seventh, four spots ahead of defending SLC champion Stephen F. Austin.
“Overall, we’re looking to go out and perform this week as a team,” Gauson added. “There’s going to be a lot of teams in the South Central region and Southland Conference, and we want to show people how good we are. I think if we can get out there and compete like Cardinals, we’ll have a good showing and represent the school well.”
The women’s race, which will span four kilometers, is set to begin at 6:15 p.m., and the six-kilometer men’s event will follow at 6:45.