GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men's cross country program was selected to repeat as Southern Conference champions while the Spartan women were tabbed to finish just shy of the top spot in second place as voted on by the league coaches, the conference office announced Wednesday.
The Spartan men received nine of 11 first place votes and 99 points overall to claim the top spot as defending champions. The UNCG women picked up two first place votes and 103 points overall to finish 12 points out of the top spot as the defending league champion.
"It's an honor that the other SoCon coaches have voted our men first and our women second," reigning SoCon Coach of the Year Linh Nguyen said. "I think preseason polls are mostly made from lasting impressions of the previous year. Obviously, we had a strong year last year and it stuck with coaches around the conference. Both teams graduated some very key performers, so it will be a tall task to match the kind of year we had in 2011. This recognition is nice, but our main focus right now is not on polls but rather on preparation, as nobody has even run a race yet."
The UNCG men dominated its competition last year by claiming five of the first 11 spots at the SoCon meet. The Spartans tallied a team score of 26, the lowest (and therefore best) by any team in the event in 13 years. The Spartans' margin of victory of 47 points was the largest by any squad in 20 years.
"The SoCon has become an extremely strong conference in distance running and each team has to work for each and every victory," Nguyen said. "At this time, we are working hard and focusing on doing what we can to be at our best at championship time. I am sure the other teams are all doing the same."
The UNCG men are headlined by junior Paul Chelimo
(Chebiemet, Kenya/Chebiemet Boys School) who was named the SoCon Runner of the Year after winning the conference championships in 23:11 last fall. Chelimo went on to place second in the NCAA Southeast Regional and 13th
in the NCAA Cross Country National Championships.
Also back for the Spartans is reining SoCon Freshman of the Year Paul Katam
(Eldoret, Kenya/Sacho) who finished fourth in the SoCon meet. Junior Abraham Kemboi
(Eldoret, Kenya/Kipkabus) placed seventh in the league last year, finishing in a time of 24:27.
The UNCG Women won last year's event with a total score of 35, which was the best by any program in seven years. The Spartans won the event by 45 points, which represented a radical departure from form in the SoCon meet, the previous eight of which had been decided by a total of 42 points.
The Spartans will have to replace two-time defending league champion Ashley Schnell who graduate last year. UNCG will look to the Sumney sisters to accomplish the task. Chelsea Sumney
(Washington, Pa./Trinity) and Shaina Sumney
(Washington, Pa./Trinity) finished fifth and seventh in the SoCon championship last fall, respectively. Chelsea ran a time of 17:12.80 at the meet and placed 31st
in the NCAA Southeast Regional while Shaina clocked in at 17:17 in the league meet.
UNCG opens the 2012 season August 31 as it takes part in the Demon Deacon Quad in Winston-Salem, N.C. The 2012 Southern Conference championships will be run Oct. 27 in Charleston, S.C.
Southern Conference Women's Cross Country Preseason Poll
1. Elon (7) - 115
2. UNCG (2) - 103
3. Appalachian State (1) - 99
4. Furman (2) - 88
5. Samford - 84
6. Davidson - 67
7. Western Carolina - 61
8. College of Charleston - 55
9. Chattanooga - 48
10. Wofford - 35
11. Georgia Southern - 20
12. The Citadel - 17
Southern Conference Men's Cross Country Preseason Poll
1. UNCG (9) - 99
2. Appalachian State - 86
3. Davidson (2) - 81
4. Furman - 76
5. Chattanooga - 65
6. Western Carolina - 54
7. Elon - 49
8. Samford - 31
9. College of Charleston - 30
10. Wofford - 18
11. The Citadel -16
- UNCG -