LYNDON CENTER, Vt. — The Lyndon State College men's cross country team will look to secure its fourth-straight North Atlantic Conference title Sunday as the Hornets play host to the 2011 NAC Cross Country Championships.
The men's race will begin at 11 a.m. and will be followed by the women's race at approximately noon. Both competitions will be run on the Lyndon Cross Country Trails, a venue was featured in the November 1994 issue of Runner's World. It was designed in a true cross country terrain style, featuring surfaces of packed dirt, grass or pine needles.
The course features rugged footing with constantly changing inclines. It has been rated by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics as a 4.5 on a five-point scale where a rating of 5 is considered the most difficult and challenging. The trails are located adjacent to the Skip Pound Baseball/Softball Complex on the Lyndon campus.
"I think the keys to both races will be which team can handle this type of terrain the best," said Chris Ummer, Director of Athletics and Head Men's and Women's Cross Country Coach at Lyndon. "Both courses are unforgiving and they make you battle the entire way. Also, the weather will likely be a factor. The temperatures at race time are likely to be only in the mid 30's, similar to last year's NAC Championships in Castine, Maine. Lastly, which teams are the healthiest is probably is the biggest factor and that in turn comes down team depth."
In the men's competition, the race will likely come down to a battle between three-time defending NAC Champion Lyndon and conference newcomer New England College. These teams have yet to race against each other, but both have performed very well throughout the season.
The Hornets are led by 2009 NAC Runner and Rookie of the Year and Josh Grant, a junior, while the Pilgrims feature sophomore standout and four-time 2011 NAC Runner of the Week Antoine Gisore. Both teams have a very solid front five.
The women's race maybe more a battle for second as Husson University clearly looks to be the favorite. Castleton and Colby-Sawyer will challenge, but are likely to have a hard time keeping up with the depth and talent of Husson's top five runners, led by freshman Alecia Palmer and 2010 Runner of the Year Angela Stauble, a senior. Colby-Sawyer's title hopes will be on the shoulders of freshman standout Brianne Dunn while Castleton is led by sophomore Shannon Park.
While Grant and Gisore may be tabbed as the favorites for the men's individual title other competitors that shouldn't be counted out are Colby-Sawyer freshman Hayden Bunnell, NEC freshman Makopa Rugabirwa, Castleton junior Isaac French and Lyndon sophomore Kenedi Hall, who walked off with NAC Rookie of the Year honors in 2010.
Bunnell and Rugabirwa are likely to vie for this season's NAC Rookie of the Year award.
The women's individual title will be a struggle between Palmer and Stauble, both running for Husson, and Colby-Sawyer's Dunn, who beat both earlier in the year on the same course. Others that are not to be counted out are Caila Walker, a freshman from Colby-Sawyer, University of Maine at Farmington junior Salena Sykes, Castleton sophomore Shannon Park and teammate Mariah Eilers, a freshman.
Walker, Eilers, Dunn and Palmer will all be in the hunt for NAC Rookie of the Year award.
CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES: 8K & 5K Records
• NAC Championship Women's Meet Record – Lyndsay Calkins (Lyndon) 2008 – 18:52
• NAC Championship Men's Meet Record – Matthew Methot (Maine Maritime) 2010 – 26:14
• Women's Old 5K Course Record (3.09) – Andy Giddings (Middlebury) – 20:12
• Men's Old 8K Course record (4.96) – Jeremiah Bias (Lyndon) – 28:06