Cross Country starts off season on the right foot

The Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams are eager to hit the ground running as they look forward to an exciting 2013 season.

Last season, the men’s team finished 12th place out of 26 teams in the NCAA South Regional Championships. This is the highest place finish in Mercer Bear history.

Sophomore Lucas Steinheber led the team with a 36th place over all finish. Senior Jacob Law was close behind with a 39th  place finish. Both runners set personal bests for the season with times of 31:48.3 and 31:54.1 respectively.

The women’s team placed 24th in the region with seniors Kacie Neimann and Katlyn Will leading the way. Neimann ran a personal best as well to secure her eighth place overall finish with a time of 17:47.3. Neimann solidified her reputation as one of the best runners in Mercer history with three top 14 finish in the Regional Championships. In addition, she was recognized as an Atlantic Sun Post Graduate Scholar and Mercer Female Student Athlete of the Year.

The Bears are taking a hit with the loss of seniors Will, Neimann, and Law, however, the team is nothing but excited for the new recruits. This year’s captain, Caley Cranford, commented on the upcoming season.

“I am most excited about the increase in numbers on our team and the increase in ability that will bring with it. Our team has doubled in size from last year, with the nine incoming freshmen and two current Mercer students who will also be joining us.”

Although Will will not be participating in competition, she is returning to Mercer to help coach the women’s team.

Cranford also expressed her excitement for many returning runners.

“Linda Wrede from Germany is going to be a great addition to our team,” stated Cranford. “We are looking for great success out of her this season. Also, returners Lena Hamvas and Kami Orrender are also expected to improve greatly on their best times from last season to lead us to many victories during our fall season.”

Cranford also mentioned Jenna Gipperich as a strong component to the team after her outstanding performance during the track season.

After a strong finish in the Regional Championship, the men’s team is only setting their sights higher.

“On the men’s side, I hope to welcome three new runners,” says Coach Ryan Bailey. “Hank Campbell is a rising junior, joining us from Darton College. Hank finished 95th in the NJCAA National Championships in 2012 and will be a welcome addition to the team.”

The Bears kicked off their preseason on Monday. This preseason will be a crucial one since the expectations are set for both teams to have a fifth place finish at conference.

“We are familiar with the course already and that will work towards our advantage,” says Cranford. “The road to conference is a long one but the new additions to both men and women’s teams, plus a strong core of returners gives a bright future for Mercer Cross Country.”

Both men and women begin competition in on Saturday, Aug. 31, in at the UGA Stampede in Bishop, Ga.