BRISTOL, Tenn. – The King University men's cross country team is coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history, leaving expectations for the 2013 season very high. The Tornado return nearly everyone from a team that qualified for their first NCAA Division II National Championships in school history in 2012.
Head coach Peter Dalton led the Tornado to one of the best seasons in school history a last year as King finished second at the Conference Carolinas Championships. The Tornado followed that with a third place finish at the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships, which qualified the Tornado for the NCAA National Championships. Competing at the NCAA Division II National Championships for the first time, King came in with a 27th place finish, leaving room for improvement in 2013.
The 2013 squad will be anchored by the top two finishers at the Conference Carolinas Championships, senior Spencer Frantom and junior Jordan Noe. Frantom finished second at both the conference meet and NCAA Southeast Regional, and was King's top finisher at the NCAA National Championships, placing 43rd.The Morristown, Tenn., native was named first team All-Region by USTFCCCA and first team all-conference. Noe, also a Morristown native, joined Frantom on both of those teams and was named Conference Carolinas Runner of the Year after winning the conference title.
"We have the top two finishers in the conference, Spencer [Frantom] and Jordan [Noe], Jordan was actually the conference runner of the year, and then they flipped in the regional as Spencer was second individually in the region, and Jordan was third," Dalton said. "There is no reason Spencer and Jordan can't go 1-2 in the region this year. Last year, the guy who won it was a senior, so he's gone, and the two men are now a year older, stronger, wiser. That's our expectation to be honest with you, Spencer is a senior, this is it, it's time to go and Jordan is a veteran junior so it's definitely our expectation for those two to be way up there in the conference."
Also returning for the Tornado in 2013 is second team all-conference and third team All-Region performer Dickson Kurgat. The junior from Naidi Hills, Kenya turned in a top-10 performance at the conference meet, placing eighth.
Senior Taylor Dix, along with junior Jordan Smith and sophomore Brent Swiney are also back for the 2013 season. All three turned in top-20 performances at the Conference Carolinas Championships a season ago. Dix hails from Memphis, Tenn., and took home a 19th place finish while Lebanon, Va., native Smith placed 16th. A native of Bristol, Va., Swiney rounded out this group with an 18th place finish.
The Tornado were selected to finish second in the Conference Carolinas Preseason Coaches' Poll. King received one first place vote while Mount Olive College was picked first after receiving the final eight first place votes. Belmont Abbey College and North Greenville University were selected to finish third and fourth, respectively.
The Tornado will be tested early in the season as they open on September 6 at the Eye Opener Invitational in Spartanburg, S.C., and follows that with the Virginia Tech Invitational on September 20. King will try to improve on their second place Conference Carolinas finish from a season ago on October 25 in Concord, N.C. The NCAA Southeast Regional is scheduled for November 9 and the NCAA Division II National Championships will take place on November 23 in Spokane, Wash.