Head coach Danny Williamson announced the 2009 cross country season on July 8. The season, which will consist of four regular season races before the Southern Conference Championship, will kick off Sept. 4 with a WCU Invitational.
“We are looking forward to our upcoming season,” said Williamson. “The schedule will provide us with a great challenge and the opportunity to battle some of the top squads in our region, while at the same time allowing both our men’s and women teams the opportunity to grow and learn how to be able to depend on each other on a weekly basis. It will also allow us to become more competitive as each week passes throughout the season.”
The Sep. 4 meet will begin with the women’s race at 5:30 p.m., followed by the men’s event.
On Sept. 19, the Catamounts will run at either the UGA Invitational, hosted by Georgia, or the Winthrop Invitational, hosted by Winthrop. On Oct. 2 the season will continue at the Charlotte Invitational, hosted by University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Oct. 16 marks the Blue Ridge Invitational, the Catamounts’ last meet before Southern Conference Championship. It will be hosted by the rivals of Appalachian State. The meet should be heated, as last season the Catamount women’s 9th place finish and the men’s 14th were not enough to keep the Old Mountain Jug from the Mountaineers.
Both the men’s and women’s teams have strong runners returning. Stephen Hammond, who was named SoCon Runner of the week early last season and went on to place 7th in the Citadel Invitational and 12th in the Southern Conference Championship, returns as a senior to lead the men’s team.
Hammond is optimistic about the season.
“My expectations for my final season are to be an All-Southern Conference performer and to climb up to the top of the All-Time Western Cross Country List. But more importantly, I expect myself to lead the team to the best finish ever by a Western Carolina team at the Southern Conference meet.”
Hammond also says that he and the rest of the team look forward to participating in the Charlotte Invitational.
“Aside from the conference meet, I think the meet most of the guys are looking forward to is the Charlotte Invitational because the race is at a course most of us ran in high school so we kind of want to see how each of us do in comparison to past races run there. For me, though, I am most looking forward to the NCAA Regional Meet because it will be my first time competing against my brother, who runs for Virginia Tech, at the collegiate level.”
Hammond will receive a strong backing from returning runners Josey Weaver and Stephen Roach, both juniors who placed 32nd and 37th in last year’s SoCon, respectively.
The women’s team will be led by junior Jordan Gaddy and seniors Lindsay Groce and Danielle Shaurette. Gaddy led the team at last year’s SoCon by taking 17th place, and consistently placed with the team leaders throughout the regular season. Danielle Shaurette took 29th in the SoCon, and Lindsay Groce took first and honors in the Western Carolina Open.
The Southern Conference will take place at Elon, NC on October 31. Beyond it lays the possibilities of the NCAA Southeast Regional, and the NCAA Championships.
“I feel that we have a great opportunity in front of us to make a significant move upward in the SoCon standings,” Williamson concluded. “With the returning depth and our incoming talent, if we can all mesh together and form that great team chemistry we could come up with something special this season.”