Cross country caps season with 6th, 7th place finishes in A-Sun

Mercer’s men and women’s cross country teams wrapped up their season this past Saturday with their conference finals in Nashville, TN. Both teams posted similar performances with the women taking sixth and the men taking seventh out of 10 overall squads.
Both teams have had strong performances leading up to the 2011 conference finals, and Assistant Coach Roland Adams had this to say about the team’s preparation and goals, “Both teams have progressed well over the season. We have been getting better as every meet goes on. Just recently, the men averaged 25:45 for the top five runners which is a 30 second better average from conference last year, and the women averaged 19:03 last race. Our goal this year is to do better than seventh. It seems like every year, the teams usually get seventh of 10 or 11 teams. This year, there are 10 teams in our conference and we hope to get at least fifth. It is going to be a very tight race for both teams but especially on the men’s side because the top teams have an average ranging from 25:30 to 25:50 just like us.”
The Lady Bears were once again led by standout junior Kacie Niemann, who set a school record in the 5k for the A-Sun championships with a time of 18:10.10 and placed 12th in a field of 78 runners. Niemann’s new record replaced her old record that she set in 2010. Once again finishing second for the Bears was sophomore Lena Hamvas who finished 32nd overall with a time of 19:13.30. Mercer’s third and fourth place runners finished within 10 seconds of each other with senior Christina Kivi leading the way with a time of 19:19.60 followed closely by sophomore Samantha Woller with a time of 19:29.40. Mercer’s scoring was rounded out by fifth place runner Illiana Garcia who finished with a time of 20:51.00. Mercer finished the meet with a team average of 19:24, 12 seconds better than seventh place team Florida Gulf Coast and 36 seconds behind fifth place Jacksonville. Lipscomb took home the A-Sun title with a team average of 18:06.
Also running for the Lady Bears in the race were sophomores Kylen Hughes (20:57.20), Caley Cranford (22:17.90) and junior Kasie Knapper (21:18.10).
The men faced a very competitive field in Nashville, with only 22 seconds separating the team averages for the first and fifth place teams. Mercer was again led by Sony Prosper, who finished in 16th place in the field of 79 with a time of 25:57.32. Mercer’s final score was once again bolstered by the fact that juniors Jacob Law (26:14.48), Andrew Weems (26:14.93) and Chris Svidesskis (26:20.86) finished within six seconds of each other and took 24th, 27th and 30th place respectively. Mercer’s scoring five was rounded out by senior Marc Kushinka who finished in 50th place overall with a time of 27:13.22. The Bears took home seventh place with a team average of 26:24, 14 seconds better than eighth place Florida Gulf Coast and 23 seconds behind sixth place ETSU. U.S.C. Upstate took home the conference title with a team average of 25:35 in large part due to having three runners finish in the top 10.
Also running for the Bears were freshmen Josh Pendley (27:21.48), Jeff Law (28:31.97), sophomore Kasib Abdullah (27:48.21) and senior Geremy Skeen (29:04.03).
The A-Sun championships signal the end of the 2011 cross country season for the Bears, but the runners will continue to train and prepare as they get ready for the start of the 2012 track season.