Cross Country Set to Preview Championship Course
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Most people don’t like to sit through previews in movies, but when it comes to cross country Mercer University head coach Ryan Bailey is eager to have his team run through theirs this Saturday. The Bears’ teams will race at USC Upstate’s Milliken Research Park, which also happens to be the site of the Atlantic Sun Conference championships on Nov. 13.
“I think it’s an advantage,” said Bailey of his team getting a sneak-peak at the championship course. “You get to see it and it gives runners a little extra confidence knowing they have already run it. It also helps them plan their race strategies to have been on the course.”
Bailey is confident that both his teams are on track and has been impressed with recent workouts.
“Both teams had a fantastic week,” said Bailey. “I think the men’s team seems pretty clear who has emerged as out top nine to go to the conference meet, but you always have to prepare for a surprise. It’s not entirely clear on the women’s side who my ninth runner is yet and this weekend will tell me.”
Bailey also expects the conditions to be ripe for some individual achievements. According to Bailey, the course is fast and – coupled with weather predictions calling for clear and 74 degrees – the stage could be set for some personal records.
For one member of the Bears’ women’s team – Jenna Jackson – the race will be an opportunity to close out her cross country career by targeting a personal best mark. Jackson, a sprinter as a prep who converted to the distances of cross country to run for Bailey’s Bears, is looking to break the 24 minute barrier for the first time in her career. While certainly an inglorious 5K time for a typical cross country competitor, it is tremendous feat for an athlete who has spent their time training for races of 12 to 25 seconds most of their career.
“Jenna has been a very special young lady for our program and all of us will be pulling for her a little extra on Saturday,” reflected Bailey.
On the women’s side, sophomore Kacie Niemann will be trying to be her team’s top finisher for the third-straight week. For the Mercer men, three different individuals – Andrew Weems, Chris Svidesskis and Jacob Law – have all been the team’s top finisher in successive races.