Women Claim Fourth, Men Seventh At C-USA Championship

UABSPORTS.COM Senior Brittany Copeland earned All-Conference USA First-Team honors by coming in fourth overall and setting the East Carolina record in the 5K.
Senior Brittany Copeland earned All-Conference USA First-Team honors by coming in fourth overall and setting the East Carolina record in the 5K.

Oct. 31, 2011

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HOUSTON, Texas - The East Carolina women's and men's cross country teams competed in the Conference USA Championship Monday morning at the Wildcat Golf Club and turned in solid outings. The women placed fourth out of 12 squads while the men checked in seventh of eight. The performance by the women was the program's best-ever finish at the league meet and the group trailed third-place Rice by just three points.

The women's previous high performance was a fifth-place showing in 2001. A year ago, East Carolina's women finished sixth at the C-USA event. The men's team slipped from last year's fifth-place standing, but had just two upperclassmen participate in the meet.

"The women turned in the best performance we've ever had," head coach Dan Lee said. "I'm so excited for this group. I'm very proud of their performances today."

Individually, senior Brittany Copeland earned All-Conference USA First-Team honors by coming in fourth overall with a program-best 5K time of 16:56.7. She is the initial female in program history to be named to the league's top squad. Kyle MacKenzie is the only other Pirate to ever earn a first-team selection as he received the nod in 2003 and 2004. MacKenzie is also the lone East Carolina runner to finish higher than Copeland's fourth-place showing, as he won the league meet in 2003. The all-league honor is the third of Copeland's career as she was named to the second team in 2008 and 2010.

Senior Tara Wilson improved upon last year's third-team honor by jumping up to the All-Conference USA Second Team. She placed 10th overall after checking in 16th in 2010. Junior Brooke Kott also earned all-league recognition, finishing 15th to earn third-team honors. It was the first time in program history the women had three All-C-USA selections in the same season after setting the previous mark last year with two. The Pirates nearly made it four league honorees as senior Amanda Lapp placed 22nd with the top 21 finishers receiving All-C-USA distinction.

Copeland set the East Carolina record in the 5K as she became the first Pirate to finish in under 17 minutes. Johanna Allen established the previous-best mark in 2001 with a time of 17:00. Earlier this season, Copeland set the ECU record in the 6K.

"Brittany finishing in fourth place behind three superstars who are a couple of the nation's elite athletes is fantastic," Lee added. "She broke the school record and turned in a phenomenal performance."

Wilson clocked in at 17:34.6, the sixth-best mark in program history and two seconds shy of her personal record. Kott was not far behind, completing the race in a career-low 17:53.4. Showing the progress Kott has made, she finished 80th overall at last year's Conference USA meet with a time of 19:44.

"Brooke Kott had a major, major breakthrough," Lee said. "Last year, she barely made it into our top seven every meet. She had a great summer of training and things have just been getting better and better, workout by workout this fall. She has worked her way into that top group and today she raced the way she has been working out.

"Tara also exceeded any expectations a reasonable coach would have had for her when she came in her freshman year. Being top 10 in the conference is pretty remarkable from where she started."

Lapp missed receiving C-USA honors by the narrowest of margins. She clocked an 18:04.6 while the 21st-place finisher had a time of 18:04.1. Lapp made an eight-place improvement over last year's C-USA finish.

"Amanda had some recent injuries and gritted through a tough last two or three weeks," Lee said. "I know she wanted to finish one place higher, but she really helped achieve what we did today."

Leading the next group of Pirate finishers was sophomore Stefanie Fresenius, who competed in her first league meet and placed 36th overall with a time of 18:33.8. The time was nearly 11 seconds better than her previous best 5K.

"Stefanie has just improved and improved and improved," Lee added. "She ended the regular season with a personal best. I couldn't ask for more and am incredibly proud of her."

Sophomore Bjork Olsen ran a 19:02.6 to claim 47th overall while yet another sophomore, Amanda Tomlin, checked in two spots behind at 19:05.0. A fourth classmate, Chelsea Hollingsworth, rounded out East Carolina's top-60 finishes, placing 55th after checking in at 19:16.6.

Junior Britney Kott completed the Pirate contingent, timing out in 19:42.8 to claim 67th place.

On the men's side, the top two finishers both set career-best times as sophomore Jakub Trzasalski paced the squad, running the 8K in 25:40.0 to finish 27th. Junior Antonio Palmer finished 33rd with a time of 26:10.1.

"I was really proud of Jakub," Lee said. "He ran a great race. Antonio raced more competitive than he ever has before. From start to finish, he ran a race I was very proud of."

Sophomore Michael Quercia, participating in his first Conference USA meet after transferring from Texas, checked in 46th after finishing the race in 26:56.5. Junior Daniel Porter also finished in the top 50, placing 49th with a 27:11.4 mark. Freshman Adam Morrow was the final Pirate and he took 57th by clocking out in 27:56.5.

"Daniel was coming off of an injury and really muscled through," Lee said. "Adam ran down at least two or three runners in the last 400 meters to secure our spot."

Tulsa repeated as the men's team champion with 35 points. The Golden Hurricane has claimed three titles in the last four years. UTEP was a close second with 48 points, followed by Houston in third with 71 points. The Miners' Justice Chirchir, a junior, won individual medalist merits with a time of 23:39.0.

The SMU women took home the title by scoring 27 points, narrowly edging the Tulsa women by two points for the crown. Rice checked in third with 83 points, only three more than the Pirates' total. Mustang senior Silje Fjortoft captured the individual title by clocking a best-ever championship time of 16:06.8.

East Carolina's last meet of the season will be the Nov. 12 NCAA Southeast Regional at E. P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky. Prior to the regional, the men's squad will head to Raleigh for the 3 Stripe Red-Shirt Invite on Nov. 5.