BRISTOL, Tenn. – Capping off the conference cross country season is step one of King Cross Country's postseason quest for a return to Nationals. They will take that first step this Friday afternoon, Oct. 19, at the Conference Carolinas Cross Country Championships at Frank J. Liske Park, in Concord, N.C. with high expectations of finishing where they last left that same course just two weeks ago, at the top.
Cross Country Championships home page (provided by Belmont Abbey)
The men's team is currently ranked second in the Southeast Region and will take that with them to Concord with intentions to ensure their spot at the regional championships. They come off a stellar performance at the Pre-Championship Meet held on the same course they will compete on Friday where they placed first overall with a near-perfect score of 17 points.
Jordan Noe (Morristown, Tenn.) earned his first collegiate win at the Pre-Championship meet, racing across the line in 16:10 on the 5k course. Though Noe topped the list of runners for both King and overall, he was not alone in the race for the top of the standings. Of the top seven overall positions, six belonged to King harriers, falling two points shy of a perfect score.
Season-long standout Spencer Frantom (Morristown, Tenn.) finished second, just two seconds behind Noe and was followed by teammates Dickson Kurgat (3, 16:21.89), Brent Swiney (5, 16:57.64), and Garrett Watts (7, 17:03.04).
The course will be extended to 8,000 meters (8k) but bodes well for the men's team which participated in three different 8k events prior to the Pre-Championship meet. Spencer Frantom posted the team's best individual performance for an 8,000-meter race, finished 40th out of 240 runners at the UNC-Charlotte Invitational on Sept. 28. That day he finished 25:30.48 to lead the team while teammate Dickson Kurgat (Naidi Hills, Kenya) also set a new personal record (PR) at that distance of 26:01.12.
Helping sure up the King lineup are two emerging freshmen, Brent Swiney (Bristol, Va./John Battle H.S.) and Garrett Watts (Fort Blackmore, Va.) who have each seen their PRs drop in three 8k races. Swiney finished alongside his teammates in the first meet of the season, crossing the line 15 seconds short of Jordan Noe and less than a minute behind Frantom. Since his first race, he has seen his top time dwindle below the 27-minute marker where he holds a PR of 26:50.82 set on Sept. 14. Watts has seen even more dramatic improvement with his top time dropping more than two minutes from his first meet to 27:22.87.
The women are currently ranked fifth in the Southeast Region and fighting for a top-three position in the rankings heading into the conference championship. They made a good push in their first appearance at Frank Liske Park two week ago, matching the men's team with a first place team finish and placing four of their five runners inside the top-10 for the event.
Junior Evan Ferrell (Richlands, Va.) led the team at the Pre-Championship meet finishing third overall with a 15:21.99 time on the 4k course. Teammate Kendra Sokol (Kingsport, Tenn./Dobyns-Bennett H.S.) finished fourth, just behind her while junior Eliza Parker and Danielle Beauvais rounded out the top 10 in seventh and tenth place, respectively.
The women's course will also be extended for the Conference Championship, measuring a distance of 5,000 meters (5k). Prior to their first outing at Frank Liske Park, the Lady Tornado had been participating on 6k courses in their first three meets. The team's best showing occurred on Sept. 14 at the Virginia Tech Invitational where three runners set new PRs that day and helped the team to a fifth place finish overall. Ferrell set a new personal best of 23:57.62 and finished 47th at the meet while freshman Tabitha Arwood (Lebanon, Va.) also set a new top time of 26:04.12.
Hannah Witt (Mountain City, Tenn.) was the third Lady Tornado to set a new PR at the Virginia Tech Invitational, but will not participate in the Conference Carolinas Championship due to a foot injury that has kept her out of action since.
Despite the loss of Witt, the team has answered the call with Ferrell and Sokol picking up where their senior leader left off and bringing in a strong freshman class for valuable experience heading into the season's biggest meet, to date.
The women's 5k race will begin at 4 p.m. and the men's 8k race is set to begin at 5 p.m. Maps for each course are provided above.
In addition to the championship races being held, host school Belmont Abbey College will also be announcing the All-Conference Team which includes the top 15 finishers of each race, the Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and Coach of the Year honors. All awards will be presented after both races conclude.