ELON, N.C. – The Elon University men’s and women’s cross country programs open their 2014 campaigns on Saturday, Aug. 30, with a dual meet versus local rival and former conference foe UNCG. The meet will begin with the women’s 5K race at 9 a.m. followed the men’s 5K run on the Elon Cross Country Course.
This will be the first official meet for the Phoenix under first-year head cross country coach Nick Polk. Polk took over the reins of the cross country program on Aug. 13, after serving as the assistant cross country and track and field coach at his alma mater, Grand Valley State University. During his time at GVSU, Polk helped produce 43 All-Americans and guided the women’s cross country team to back-to-back national championships at the Division II level in 2012 and 2013, in addition to leading the Lakers women’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams to national titles in 2012.
Both the men’s and women’s programs will compete in its first year in the Colonial Athletic Association this season. The conference championship meet will take place on Nov. 1, in Boston, Mass.
The Phoenix women returns all but one of its top seven runners of a year ago and welcomes back a wealth of overall experience from both conference and regional competition. The program had another successful campaign in 2013 with a runner-up finish at the Southern Conference championships. The team capped off the year with a ninth-place standing at the NCAA Southeast Regional meet, its highest finish ever at the region championships. On Tuesday, the women harriers were tabbed No. 9 in the Southeast Region preseason rankings.
Four all-conference performers return to the fold for the women’s team in seniors Haylee Dawe and Tereza Novotna, junior Elyse Bierut and sophomore Kimberly Johansen. Another junior, Kaitlin Snapp, also competed in the top seven last season for Elon. Dawe, who battled illness and injury last fall, rebounded to earn All-SoCon honors while Novotna ran the third-fastest time in school history in the 6K at the regional championships at 21:48.1.
Elon welcomes five talented newcomers to the squad in Brigid Brennan, Alicia DeCastro, Carolyn Hopkins, Macey Schweikert and Corey Weiss.
On the men’s side, the Phoenix welcomes back six runners that competed in at least one race last season. Leading the way is senior Luis Vargas, who became the first athlete in program history to earn all-region honors at the Southeast Regional Championships. Vargas broke his own school-record in the 10K at the regional meet with a time of 29:46.5 and became the first Elon men’s runner in nearly eight years to win a race with his first-place performance at the Elon Invitational.
Fellow senior Ari Rothschild clocked in the second-fastest time in school history in the 10K with a 31:58.4 at the Southeast Regionals last season. The Highland Park, Ill., native was the second runner for the maroon and gold to cross the line at the SoCon Championships.
The male freshman quartet of Carlos Andino, Sam Geha, Justin Leopold and Dominic Vernazza will add great depth for the Phoenix this season.