Women Claim Third; Men Seventh at C-USA Championship

UABSPORTS.COM Chelsea Hollingsworth
Chelsea Hollingsworth

Oct. 29, 2012

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MOSELLE, Miss. - The East Carolina men's and women's cross country teams competed at the 2012 Conference USA Championship on Monday morning at Pine Belt National Golf Course in Moselle, Miss. and turned in steady efforts. The women's team finished third out of 12 squads, while the men placed seventh of eight teams.

"It was a great meet for us," head coach Dan Lee said. "The "lull" in the middle of our season from the sickness that went through both our men's and women's team allowed us to sneak up on a few teams that may have overlooked us.  Six of our athletes set collegiate personal-best times at the championship. This was especially impressive as this by far the most challenging course that we've run on all year. The course had many large hills, the largest of which we had to run twice. On top that, the men's course was 80 meters long (8080m). "

The women's third-place ranking was the highest team finish ever by the squad. The previous highest finish was fourth at last season's championship. The women had an average time of 18:00.90 in this year's race and had a four individual finishes in the top-35 of the race. The program also saw four women run personal-best times in the competition.

"The women's team really competed well," Lee explained. "The third-place finish was our best finish ever. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year without our top four runners from last year's team with the three seniors graduating and Brooke Kott redshirting. I am excited because we will return the entire team next fall."

Junior Bjork Olsen paced the team and earned All-Conference USA First-Team honors with a 17:17.8 finish in the 5K race to rank seventh of 89 competitors. The time was a personal-best and bettered her time from last year (19:02.6) by nearly two minutes. She also moved up 40 spots in the rankings from her 2011 finish. The time also was the fourth-fastest time recorded at the school in a 5K event.

"Bjork ran a tremendous race in earning first team all-conference honors," Lee said. "She is truly a different runner this year with newfound confidence in her ability."  

Fellow junior Chelsea Hollingsworth ran a personal-best 17:48.6 to earn All-Conference USA Second-Team honors with a finish in 18th. Hollingsworth finished 55th last season and saw an improvement of 37 places in the conference rankings from one season to the next.  Her time also bettered her previous 5K time of 17:59.8 that was set earlier this season at the Adidas XC Invitational.

"Chelsea is continuing her steady progression of improvement," Lee explained.  "Being an all-conference selection was her individual goal all season and she achieved it was a furious finish at the end of the race."

Redshirt sophomore Stefanie Fresenius also topped her personal-best time and finished just out of a potential all-conference berth in 27th place (18:06.4).  She improved nine places from where she finished in 2011. Fellow redshirt sophomore Olivia Slate finished a few places behind Fresenius in 31st with a personal-best 18:11.2 in her first C-USA Championship meet.

Freshman Shewit Weldense ran an 18:40.5 in her first conference championship meet to earn 45th. Redshirt junior Stacey Gonzalez also had a top-50 ranking and was 48th in her time of 18:57.5.

Redshirt sophomore Michelle Bailey finished 57th (19:09.6) in her first Conference USA Championship.  Junior Kaylee Bythell ran a 19:31.5 which was good for 65th place. Fellow junior Kelly Miko was the final women's competitor and finished 75th (19:54.4).

The men's team finished seventh for the second consecutive season and saw four individual competitors finish among the top-50 at the race.

Redshirt junior Cory Hampshire paced the team and finished only two places from an all-conference selection in 23rd with his time of 25:38.1 in the 8K event. His ranking was five spots higher than he finished at the 2010 conference championship. Redshirt sophomore Chase Miller was just behind Hampshire in 34th with a 26:15.2.

"Cory, who like most of the team was sick earlier in the year, is getting his stride back," Lee explained. "He was only two spots off of being all-conference for the first time in his career. He is finally running with his old stride again. I am looking forward to him taking this momentum into the track season."

Senior Antonio Palmer was ECU's next placer in 44th with a 26:44.5.  Junior Jacob Trzasalski ran a 26:59.4 to finish 48th with sophomore teammate Tevin Richardson crossing the line just behind him in 49th place in a personal-best time of 26:59.5.

Redshirt freshman Brather Cline, who did not compete last year, rounded out the competitors for the Pirates in 57th place with a 28:08.6.

SMU, who also won the championship last season, won the women's title with 38 points. The women's individual crown was taken home by Risper Kimaiyo (16:42.8) from UTEP. Tulsa defended its men's crown with 25 points. UTEP's Anthony Rotich earned the men's individual title with his time of 23:32.2

The ECU cross country programs are slated to compete in the Three-Stripe Invitational on Nov. 3 in Cary, N.C. The race will be the final tune-up before the NCAA Regional Championships hosted in Charlotte on Nov. 9 at noon.