NASHVILLE – The FGCU men’s and women’s cross country teams head into the post-season as they travels to Music City for the 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Championships on Saturday. Racing through the iconic Vaughn's Gap Course, home of the Lipscomb Bison, the men’s 8k takes off at 10 a.m. EST, with the women’s 5k following at 11 a.m. EST.
“We’ve been preparing for this weekend all season,” head coach Cassandra Goodson said. “Every race, every practice, every mile was executed with conference championships in mind. The team has been looking very good in training and they’ve been talking about this race for a while, they’re ready.”
At the 2012 Conference Championship, the men’s team finished in a program-best fourth place while the women’s team finished seventh. In the men’s 8k, the Eagles had two of the team’s current members finish in the top-20, with Chris Rudloff’s (Ormond Beach, Fla./Mainland) 14th place finish (25:28.9) and Argeo Cruz (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee HS) in 16th with a time of 25:44.1. Kelly Perzanowski (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville HS) led the women’s team in the 5k race finishing in 13th-place with a time of 18:00.8 to set the former program-record.
In the final installment of the conference rankings released by the league office last Thursday, the FGCU men maintained their spot at No. 4 while the women jumped from seventh to No. 5. Maintaining control of the conference is meet-host Lipscomb as both Bison men and women are ranked first in the A-Sun coaches poll. In recent history, Lipscomb’s women’s team has been a dominant force in the A-Sun as the Bison are the two-time defending conference champions and have received unanimous first-place votes in every A-Sun Coaches Poll this year.
Of the 10 A-Sun cross country programs, the Green and Blue have raced against three so far this season. The men’s team has soared past No. 9 Stetson twice and No. 10 Jacksonville, but was outpaced by No. 3 North Florida while the women have taken down No. 10 Stetson twice, but fell to No. 2 North Florida and No. 4 Jacksonville.
In the past decade no course has been more prominent to the Atlantic Sun as Vaughn’s Gap in Nashville. Hosting three of the last nine conference championships, the notoriously hilly course is located in Percy Warner Park, Tennessee’s largest municipal parkland. Knowing what awaited in the conference race, the Eagles enter the weekend well-prepared as the course is similar to those of both the Roy Girak and FSU Invitationals.
THE PROGRAM LEADERS
So far this season, seniors Cruz and Perzanowski have posted a combined three first-place finishes and have reset a program-record on four separate occasions. Of the 30 times listed in the FGCU men’s cross country record book Cruz owns 22 of them, while Perzanowski lays claim to 17 of the women’s.
Not only does the pair lead the Eagles, they also rank as some of the conference’s best. Facing A-Sun competition in three races this season, Cruz finished ahead of conference opponents every time while Perzanowski finished three seconds behind Jacksonville’s Svenja Meyer at the FSU Invite. Both were named A-Sun Runner of the Week earlier this season, Cruz after his 8k record-setting performance in the FSU Invite and Perzanowski after leading the pack of 270 runners to set both an FGCU and course record at Florida’s Mountain Dew Invite.
THE STRONGESET SEASON YET
Highlighted by two meet titles, three program records, four individual race wins and 16 individual top-10 finishes, the 2013 season has easily been the strongest in program history, while slating the toughest schedule. So far this year, the Eagles have raced against 15 teams ranked in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association national top-30 and 12 teams ranked in the USTFCCA South Region top-15, giving their success an even greater impact. Running 322 miles over five meets, The Eagles finished ahead of high-major programs seven times this season.
THE WOMEN’S ROSTER
Traveling to Nashville this weekend are Perzanowski, Courtney Corradetti (Oceanside, Calif./Vista HS), Alicen Wilbur (Pine Island, Fla./Ida S. Baker HS), Gretchen MacMillan (Ocala, Fla./West Port HS), Kelsey English (Oakhurst, N.J./Ocean Township HS), Regan Farrow (Oviedo, Fla./Lake Howell HS), Amanda Restivo (Mount Laurel, N.J./Lenape HS) and Stephanie Cajas (Lithia, Fla./Newsome HS).
THE MEN’S ROSTER
Joining Cruz on the course this weekend are Nathan Kandie (Iten, Kenya/University of Arizona), Austin Boetje (Lawrenceville, Ga./Mill Creek HS/Georgia State), Courtland Bernard (Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota HS), Charles Bengtson (West Palm Beach, Fla./John I. Leonard HS), Alex Delle Monache (Welland, Ontario/E.L. Crossley), Chris Rudloff (Ormond Beach, Fla./Mainland HS) and Aaron Rojas (Estero, Fla./Estero HS).
For complete coverage of FGCU cross country at A-Sun Championships, follow on Twitter @FGCU_XC and visit www.FGCUAthletics.com where full recaps and results will be available at the end of the meet.