BLUE MOUNTAIN – Coach Fred Smith and his Blue Mountain College Toppers enter their second full cross country season in the TranSouth Athletic Conference with youthful optimism building on inaugural year success.
BMC opens its cross country season Saturday night at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic at Shelby Farms in Memphis. “This is a really strong meet to open the season,” Smith says. “We’ll know pretty quickly how we stand, but I feel good about our team. We’re like any other athletic team: We’re tired of running against each other and we’re eager to get into competition.
The Toppers qualified six runners for the 2008 NAIA national championship but only three returned for 2009 campaign: Tuesdae Rowland of Ripley, Richard Feist and Hunter Flanagan from Saltillo – all sophomores.
“We’re still a young team, especially the women’s team,” Smith says. “We’re still very much a developing program, but there’s a really strong team chemistry that I think will serve us well this year.”
Rowland and Christian Russell, also a sophomore from Pontotoc, are the only “seasoned” runners on the Lady Toppers squad. They will be joined by freshmen Stephanie Dillard of New Albany, Magan Wilburn of Mooreville and Beth Goolsby of Hickory Flat.
The men’s team goes a deeper, with the return of five lettermen to join freshmen Austin Epting of Baldwin and Derek Scott of Saltillo. Kreig Sartin of Pontotoc, the only senior on either BMC team, is back with sophomores Nathan Young of Pontotoc, Will Nichols, Feist and Flanagan – all from Saltillo.
While a return to the NAIA national meet is always a goal, Smith says the Toppers are focused on the TranSouth championship on Oct. 31.
“Now that we’ve got at least one year of experience, I think we’ll be a much better team,” Smith says. “I know that we’re stronger than we were a year ago, and our runners are ready to get started. It’s going to be a good season, and we’re really excited about having a true conference championship this year.”
BMC travels to Cleveland on Sept. 12 to compete in the Delta State Invitational and on Sept. 19 travels to Nashville for the Commodore Classic.
The Toppers will play hosts to the first Blue Mountain College High School Invitational on the BMC campus on Sept. 26.
They then travel to the Union University Invitational in Jackson, Tenn. on Oct. 3 and the Mississippi College Invitational in Clinton on Oct. 17. The TranSouth Athletic Conference meet is scheduled for Oct. 31 at Union University, and the NAIA qualifying meet will be Nov. 6 in Nashville. The NAIA national championship meet is Nov. 21 in Vancouver, Wash.
Blue Mountain College Media Relations