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USF Cross Country 2007 Season Preview

Aug. 23, 2007

After two second place finishes last year in the WCC Conference, the best combined finish in school history, the USF Men's and Women's Cross Country teams look forward to a promising 2007 campaign.

With elite runners returning to both teams, along with talented transfers and incoming freshmen, the Dons could once again see a record-breaking year. Here is a look at both teams for the upcoming season, which begins with the USF Invite in Golden Gate Park on September 1 at. 9:15AM. Other notable meets for the Dons this season include:

-Sundodger Invitational in Seattle on September 15; meet attracts top West Regional teams every year.

-Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis on September 29; meet is considered one of the toughest and deepest meets in the country.

-WCC Championship at Crystal Springs on October 27.

-NCAA Western Regional Meet in Eugene, Oregon which on November 10.

Men

After back-to-back second place finishes in the WCC Conference, the USF men return six of the top seven runners from the best team in school history. Leading the team will be seniors Cheyne Inman, Ryan Courtwright and Kenny Sparks.

Inman, who has a school record three All-WCC performances, will look to improve on his 2006 eighth place conference finish and capture an unprecedented fourth All-Conference performance. Sparks, who finished seventh at the WCC championships last season with a time of 26:04, a new WCC course school record, will look to add to the record book in his last season on the Hilltop. During his 2007 track campaign, he turned in strong performances- in the 800m (1:54.59), 1500m (3:57.92) and 5000m (15:05.50). Courtwright, a three-year varsity letter winner, who earned All-WCC last year with a tenth place finish, will once again provide support up front for the Dons in his final season.

After setting new school records last track season in both the 800m (1:53.31) and the 1500m (3:52.55), junior Alex Nelson, who earned All-WCC Honorable Mention last cross country season after finishing 15th, will look to crack the top ten in the conference and add to his already impressive results while at USF. Also coming off an impressive track season and looking to help the Dons will be redshirt freshman Byron Williams. Williams ran 1:55.74 (800) and 3:58.32 (1500) last spring,

"Our men's team is capable of being our best ever," said Head Coach Helen Lehman-Winters. "With the improvement that Alex, Kenny and Byron had on the track this past spring, and the experience of our seniors, our team is capable of improving significantly over last year."

Along with the returning runners, the Dons were able to add talented transfer Jordan Zwick, who demonstrated his talent in his first season on the track last year when he set school records at Florida Atlantic University in both the 3k and 5k. Also joining the team will be a solid freshmen group- Hayden Healy (Notre Dame HS, CA), Luke Wiltshire (Central Catholic HS, OR), Ravi Amarawansa (Venice HS, CA) and Josh Horeled (Praire Ridge HS, IL), who will help provide depth to a talented roster.

"As long as we are patient and focus on getting a little better each meet, we will be right where we need to be when it comes conference and regional time. We have experience leadership up front and a hungry group of freshmen eager to compete." said Lehman-Winters.

Women

The women also return six of the top seven runners from last season and will be led by talented senior All-WCC performer Jennifer Hartford. Fresh off personal bests on the track in the 3000 and 5000 (17:35.37), along with a new school record in the 10,000m (36:46.01), Hartford will look to improve from her fifth place finish last year at the conference meet, which was the second best in school history.

"I am very proud of what Jen has accomplished over the past three years here at USF, and I am looking forward to what she is capable of doing this fall," said Lehman-Winters. "She has worked hard and is truly committed to getting the most out of herself and contributing to the team."

Senior Lucy Miller, who also set a new school record during the track season in the 3000m steeplechase (11:09.23), along with a personal best in the 5000m (17:35.31) will look to match her seventh place finish from last season and earn All-WCC for the second straight season. The third senior who will provide support up front for the Dons is Elizabeth Noey who turned in strong performances last spring in 5000m (18:02.22) and the 10,000m (38:31.50). After a 19th place finish in the conference last season, Noey will once again look to provide valuable points for the Dons.

Other returning harriers who will provide depth this season are junior Michelle Born who earned All-WCC honorable mention last season after she placed 11th in the WCC Championships and sophomores Laurel Kleiber, who finished 15th last year in the WCC championship and Mary Verran who set personal bests in the 5000m (18:44.10) and 10,000m (39:15.49) in the spring,

The women's team also added two talented transfers in Zita Mezei (Villanova University) and Fallon Heffernan (Jacksonville University) who will be capable of making an immediate impact for the Dons. Mezei, who has a personal bests of 2:06 (800), 4:16 (1500) and 9:24 (3000), along with top ten finishes on the track in the tough Big East Conference, is the top recruit in program history and will provide immediate support up front for the Dons. Heffernan, who has the school record at Jacksonville University in the 3000m steeplechase and is a two time regional qualifier in that event, will be able to provide big race experience for the Dons after placing 39th in the 2005 South Cross Country Regional.

"Both Zita and Fallon will provide our team with added strength up front," said Lehman-Winters. "They are both super talented and highly motivated to contribute to our program."

Also looking to contribute to the team this season are freshmen Nicole Bowler and Amelia Holcombe. Bowler owns personal bests of 2:19 (800) and 5:06 (1600) in her first and only season of track at the prep level. Holcombe was a two time MVP of her high school cross country team and has personal bests of 4:49 (1500) and 19:52 (5000).

"Our women's squad is undoubtedly the strongest in USF history. We have experience and strong leadership up front and our athletes are committed to bringing the team to an entirely new level," said Lehman-Winters. "This team has the potential of being top ten within the Region."