FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU Women’s Cross Country team, which had a strong showing at the A-Sun Championships last season, was picked to finish ninth in the Atlantic Sun preseason poll the conference office announced on Thursday.
The league coaches installed the Belmont Bruins as the overwhelming favorite for 2009. Led by Brittany Thune, the 2008 individual champion and Runner of the Year, Belmont returns its top six runners from last year’s league championship. Thune can join six other women in league history to win multiple individual titles. Kara Sephel, last season’s Freshman of the Year, anchors a group of Bruins’ sophomores that claimed four spots on the All-Freshman team. Belmont received eight of the 11 first-place votes from the conference’s head coaches.
The second and third spots in the coaches poll resemble the results from November’s A-Sun Championship where Jacksonville edged out Kennesaw State for second place.
The Owls, the lone team to topple the Bruins since 2001 (winning in 2005), have placed among the top three teams in each of their four years in the A-Sun.
UNF, USC Upstate and Lipscomb were engaged in a tight battle for the following three positions in the preseason poll with the Ospreys narrowly capturing fourth. After three straight top-four finishes, the Ospreys took sixth last season and return Hillary Adams (12th at 2008 Championship). In 2008, USC Upstate improved its team finish by five places, up from 12th to seventh and the coaches expect the Spartans to continue moving forward, voting them fifth in the poll. Emily Tangwar, the 2007 runner up and Freshman of the Year, leads the young Spartans, a team that features no seniors. Lipscomb must replace Carolyn Latham, the program’s only two-time All-Conference runner.
Campbell placed seventh and returns Baillie Locke (third in 2008 and fifth in 2007), while ETSU, FGCU, Mercer and Stetson round out the poll. The Eagles will host their first meet on October 24 in Fort Myers. The meet is set to begin at 8:40 a.m.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life, with a focus on academic and athletic integrity and a balance between the two for the student-athlete, and maintaining a high level of sportsmanship. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun encompasses six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun consists of some of the most dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.
2009 A-Sun Women’s Cross Country Preseason Poll
3. Kennesaw State
5. USC Upstate
9. Florida Gulf Coast