By Cory SpaughSports Writer
With the men coming off a fourteenth place finish at the Blue Ridge Open and the women a ninth place finish at the same event, the Catamounts cross country teams each finished the 2008 season with seventh place finishes in the SoCon Championships, which were held Saturday, Nov. 1 at Milliken Park in Spartanburg, S.C.
The Western Carolina men’s cross country team was picked 8th in the SoCon preseason poll, while the women’s cross country team was picked 7th in the SoCon preseason poll. Last season, the men’s team finished the SoCon championship in 7th place and the women’s finished in 6th place.
The men’s team was led to a 7th place finish on Nov. 1 by junior Stephen Hammond who finished 23rd out of 98 runners and completed the 8k course in 25 minutes 59 seconds. The second Catamount to cross the finish line was freshman Josey Weaver in 32nd place with a time of 26:23.19 and sophomore Stephon Roach was 37th with a time of 26:33.82.
Weaver, with his 32nd place finish overall, was named to the Southern Conference All-Freshmen team.
The conference championship was won by Appalachian State with 40 points and the Catamounts came home in seventh place with 197 points by squeaking past Davidson by only one point.
Next season, the Catamounts return all but one member. The team will lose senior Field Miller to graduation.
Women take seventh
The leader of the women’s team in the Southern Conference championships was sophomore Jordan Gaddy, who crossed the finish line in 17th place out of 98 runners overall with a time of 18:42.43. The Catamounts also got a strong performance from junior Danielle Shaurette who finished 29th with a time of 19:00.54 and Megan Isaacs came home 35th with a time of 30:35.01. The Lady Catamounts finished 7th overall in the conference with 158 points, while the UT-Chattanooga Mocs took the title with 60 points.
The Lady Catamounts will return most of their team for next year, losing three seniors from their squad: Skye Aiello, Megan Isaacs, and Leah Nicholson.
Both the men and women cross country teams will look to continue to build on their success from this season over to next year.
Western started the 2008 season with first place finishes on the men’s and women’s side in the Western Carolina Open in Cullowhee and both teams finished second at the Catamount Classic, also in Cullowhee. The men and women struggled on the road though, with the men’s best finish coming at the Blue Ridge Open in Boone (14th) and women at the Blue Ridge Open (9th).
(Western Carolinian sports editor Justin Caudell contributed to this report)