Cross-country teams picked in middle of GSC

by Sports Editor Jacob Cole

The North Alabama cross-country teams are picked to finish in the middle of the Gulf South Conference to start the 2017 season.  

After Scott Trimble resigned in April, interim coach Heath White took over the Lions’ cross-country teams. White said the preparation for the season has improved and looks good so far.

“Summer training is always tough for everyone because it’s so hot and everyday feels like a beat down,” White said. “The results from persevering through the summer are going to show up this fall.”

The men’s team returns 10 runners from last season. The Lions finished seventh in the GSC with a 52-21 mark in points.  

Local product junior Justin Watson posted the Lions’ top running time in five of six races. Senior Ryan LaGanke said the one goal on the Lions’ mind is winning the GSC Championship.

 “This year we are blessed to have an excellent blend of veterans and incoming freshman to make this goal come to fruition,” LaGanke said.

LaGanke said he and teammate Watson trained in the off-season to help UNA in the 2017 cross-country year. Seniors Braxton Linder, Tate Carden and junior Jared Melton return from last year, as well. The Lions will introduce six freshmen to the team.

The Lions’ women’s team is picked to finish eighth this year in the GSC.  

The UNA women’s team returns 11 runners, including new faces, to lead this year’s team alongside the Lions’ new coach. The Lions posted a 51-23-1 mark last year while finishing seventh in the GSC.

All-South Region performers and sophomores Emilee Hudsmith and Emma Knight return, helping the Lions improve from last season. Seniors Laura Bennett and Alexandra Pidcock also returns to help the Lions in the 2017 season.  

White said he thinks the women’s team will be strong this year.  

“I honestly want to mention the entire women’s team as standouts for this fall,” White said. “I think it may be that close of a competition among each other.”

Both teams will also introduce new faces with freshmen looking to make a difference for the UNA cross-country team.  

White said he is optimistic about both teams.

“It does look to be a solid year for the women’s team, and the men’s team is returning most of our 2016 scorers and adding several new faces,” White said.  “Overall, I think it’s going to be a good showing for us.”

The men’s and women’s team open the season Sept. 8 in Cartersville, Ga. at the Kennesaw State Invitational.