ELON, N.C. – The Elon University cross country programs will compete at their final meet listed on its schedule, the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships on Friday, Nov. 11, hosted by the University of Virginia on the course at Panorama Farms in Earlysville, Va.
The meet is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. with the women’s 6K race followed by the men’s 10K at noon.
“The regional meet is a big meet,” said Elon head cross country coach Nick Polk. “We’ve always had our eye on it during the whole season and most of the past few years it ends up being where we run the best during the whole season. So we’re looking forward to it again this year, going in there, competing well and hopefully finishing with the best race we’ve run all year.”
Updates of the meet will be posted on Twitter at the programs’ handle, @EU_XCTF. Other updates will also be provided at the handle, @elonscores.
Around the Southeast Region
The meet will consist of 38 programs being represented on the women’s side and 37 for the men. The women’s race will feature one team, second-ranked NC State, that’s nationally ranked in the latest United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national poll as well as one other program, Colonial Athletic Association foe and 2016 league champion William & Mary, receiving votes. Heading into the meet, the Elon women is currently No. 14 in the region. Host Virginia is the defending champion and is No. 10 in the regional rankings.
On the men’s side, host Virginia (No. 16) and NC State (No. 27) are the nationally ranked teams in the region. Both schools are No. 1 and No. 2 in the region, respectively, with CAA foe William & Mary also in the top-10 at No. 6. Defending champion Louisville is currently No. 11 in the regional rankings.
“There’s a lot of competition this weekend on both sides and a lot of good individuals as well in the race,” said Polk. “We look forward to every year beating as many teams as we can and have our highest finish in the region ever. We’ve had luck and a good history (at the regional meet).”
The top-two teams from each of the nine regions will automatically advance to the NCAA Championships, which will be held in Terre Haute, Ind., at the Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. An additional 13 at-large teams will receive berths to the meet. Those selections are expected to be announced Monday, Nov. 14. Furthermore, four individual athletes from each region who finish in the top-25 (not part of a qualifying team) will also be chosen to compete at the championships. The NCAA committee will then choose two final individuals at-large.
Last Time Out
The Phoenix last raced at the CAA Championships in Newark, Del., on Oct. 29. Nick Ciolkowski captured his second consecutive individual league title in the men’s 8K as the Fairport, N.Y., native became the first athlete in school history to win two individual conference championships. Ciolkowski clocked a time of 25:08.10 in the race – nearly 13 seconds faster than the runner-up – as the Phoenix men finished third overall with 84 points.
In the women’s race, Elon was also third overall in the 6K race with 66 points. Kimberly Johansen had the highest conference finish ever for an Elon female as the senior was third overall with a time of 21:26.42. Coralea Geraniotis was the second Phoenix female harrier to cross the line with a time of 22:04.19 in eighth while rookie Melissa Anastasakis was 12th with a time of 22:18.35. All three received All-CAA honors for the race.
Women: The Phoenix will look to continue its upward trend from the past three regional championship meets where it bested its highest finish ever. After coming in ninth at the Southeast Regional meet in 2013, the Phoenix female harriers came in eighth in 2014 and a program-best seventh last season where Elon finished ahead of other notable top-10 region schools Clemson, Duke, Richmond and Wake Forest.
“The women have a lot to race for,” said Polk. “We didn’t have a great meet at the CAA Championships so we’re looking to bounce back with a big performance as a team. The whole season had great individuals standing out at different meets, but we haven’t been able to put all of our great individuals on the same day and that’s what we are looking forward to doing this weekend.”
Last season, Johansen became the second female in school history to earn All-Region honors after finishing in the top-25 with a time of 21:38.6 in the women’s 6K. Joining Johansen at the regional meet this Friday will be fellow senior Shelby Cuddeback, Geraniotis, Anastasakis, juniors Corey Weiss, Brigid Brennan, redshirt sophomore Carolyn Hopkins and freshman Grace Dellapa.
Men: Ciolkowski is also looking to best his performance from last year’s regional meet where he earned a 37th overall finish as a rookie with a time of 30:38.0 in the men’s 10K. The performance was the second-fastest time in the 10K in school history. Overall, the Phoenix men finished 21st at the Southeast Region with 569 points.
“Nick has improved a lot over the last year,” said Polk. “He showed that throughout the season and at the conference meet. He finished 37th last year as an individual and the natural progression would be to shoot for the top-25 this year and perform as an All-Region runner. I think there’s a good chance he’ll be higher than that.”
Juniors Carlos Andino and Justin Leopold along with Ian Mickool, Richie Kasper, Colton Lawson, Josh Kruppa and Michael Germinario are scheduled to represent the Phoenix men. Mickool was the second Elon runner to cross the finish line at the CAA Championships as the rookie was 16th overall with a time of 26:34.82 in the 8K.
“Overall, the goal for the men has always been to shoot for its highest finish ever at the regional meet at the D-I level,” continued Polk. “I think with Nick up front, that really helps us and if we continue to run as a strong pack, gain experience, get a little bit older and learn how to compete little more each time, the men will reach that level.”
Following the NCAA Southeast Regional, is the NCAA Cross Country Championships held in Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday, Nov. 19, the Phoenix or any individuals that qualify.