Cross Country Set To Begin 2011 Campaign
Sept. 1, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - The East Carolina men's and women's cross country teams open the 2011 season Friday afternoon at the Covered Bridge Open in Boone, N.C. Both squads have high expectations as the top runners return and a new crop of talented individuals are set to make their Pirate debuts.
On the men's side, senior Zack Montijo leads the way after earning the team's most valuable player honors, pacing the squad four times, turning in four top-25 finishes and receiving Third Team All-Conference USA honors last season. It was the second all-league honor for Montijo, who was the 2008 Conference USA Freshman-of-the-Year and a second-team All-C-USA selection. At last year's conference championship, he placed 18th with a personal-best, and seventh fastest in program history, time of 24:36 in the 8K. He opened 2010 by setting the Pirate record in the 6,400 meters with a 20:32.11 mark at the Covered Bridge Open and followed with the third-fastest 5K in the ECU record books with a 15:23.1 performance at the Wolfpack Invitational.
Junior Dillon Hawley hopes to bounce back from an injury-riddled sophomore campaign and push Montijo for the top spot. Hawley was named the team's most valuable runner and top freshman in 2009. Despite the injury, Hawley still paced East Carolina twice last year, at the Panorama Farms Invitational and NCAA Southeast Regional. At the regional meet, he turned in the 13th-best 10K in the ECU record book with a time of 32:32.88.
Giving the squad another veteran presence is Jordan Neil, a graduate student transfer from McNeese State who ran track for the Pirates in the spring and has one semester of eligibility to compete for the cross country program. Neil was selected as the April 5 Conference USA Male Outdoor Athlete-of-the-Week after running, at that point, the nation's second-fastest 1,500-meter time (3:43.43) at the Florida Relays. He became the first Pirate to earn a weekly league honor since Eric Frasure on Feb. 6, 2007.
Junior Cory Hampshire looks to add depth to the squad after winning his first career meet title last season, taking the ECU Pirate Invitational crown with an 8K time of 26:27.27. He also made a 13-spot improvement from 2009 at the Conference USA Championship by taking 28th with a time of 25:24 in the 8K. Classmate Antonio Palmer continues to develop and set career-best marks in the 5K and 8K a year ago. He turned in his fastest 8K during the Conference USA Championship, completing the race in 26:16 and taking 39th place.
Redshirt junior Daniel Porter, sophomore Chase Miller and classmate Jakub Trzasalski round out the returning runners for the men. In his first season with the program after transferring from the University of Tennessee, Porter competed in six meets and ran a career-best 25:18 8K at the Conference USA Championship, claiming 26th place. Miller was named the team's top freshman after participating in all seven meets. His highest finish, seventh, of the season came at the 8K ECU Pirate Invitational with a time of 28:04.23. He also turned in a strong showing at the league championship with a season-best 8K of 25:35, good for 33rd place. Trzasalski ran in one race, finishing the 8K Panorama Farms Invitational in 27:46.66 to take 79th place.
The men bring five newcomers on board, led by freshman Tevin Richardson. While at Nash Central High School, Richardson finished second at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3A regional race as a senior with a time of 16:38 in the 5K. In his final track season, he captured the 3A regional title in the 800 meters while placing third in the same event at the state outdoor meet.
East Lincoln High School standout Brather Cline joins the squad after receiving the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference Most Valuable Runner for track award the last three years. He finished fifth at the state cross country meet while serving as a captain during his final campaign. Freshman Brandon Dunford, from Hopewell High School, was named The Herald Weekly 2010-11 Boys Indoor Track Athlete-of-the-Year and is transitioning to cross country after only running during his senior season. Freshman Adam Morrow and sophomore transfer Michael Quercia complete the contingent. Quercia ran in one meet for the University of Texas last fall, placing 17th at the 5K Concordia Invite and finishing with a time of 16:11.0.
For the ECU women, expectations are high as the top three runners are back. Redshirt senior Brittany Copeland joins seniors Tara Wilson and Amanda Lapp as the leaders of the squad that returns 13 other runners and brings in two newcomers.
Copeland returned in 2010 after a year absence and was named the team's most valuable runner. She turned in four top-15 finishes and earned Second Team All-Conference USA honors. She now owns two of the top five 5K times in program history and three of the top 10. She ran her best 5K at the C-USA Championship with a time of 17:28, the second fastest in the East Carolina record books and good for 14th place. Earlier in the campaign, she won her second career ECU Pirate Invitational, taking the title with a 17:56 5K.
Wilson battled with Copeland all season for the team's top spot and earned All-Conference USA Third-Team honors, turning in three top-10 East Carolina times and finishing in the top 55 in every race of the season. Wilson placed 16th at the 5K C-USA meet with a career-best, and third fastest in ECU history, 17:33. She finished the season pacing the Pirates at the NCAA Southeast Regional with a personal-fastest, and program fifth-best, 21:40.3 6K, good for 54th place out of 253 runners.
Lapp had her strongest season to date last year, turning in five top-30 finishes and setting a career best in the 5K. She had her highest ever placement of third at the ECU Pirate Invitational (18:34.64) and ran a personal-best 5K of 17:59 at the Conference USA Championship, good for 30th place.
Senior Andrea Barletta looks to close her career on a high note after running in five meets a year ago and setting a career-best 19:58 in the 5K at the Mount Olive Invitational.
A talented quartet of juniors also returns to the mix. Kirstin Anderson ran in four meets a year ago with Britney Kott participating in three. Stacey Gonzalez took part in five while Brooke Kott ran in all seven of the team's races. Gonzalez set career-best times in the 5K (19:01/Conference USA Championship) and 6K (23:07.4/NCAA Southeast Regional) during the season. Brooke Kott, the team's 2009 freshman-of-the-year, turned in three top-50 performances and ended the campaign with a career-best 22:58.5 time in the 6K NCAA Southeast Regional.
The squad is buoyed by eight returning sophomores, including last year's top freshman, Bjork Olsen. She ran in all seven meets and finished in the top 25 three times. Her highest placement of the season came at the 5K ECU Pirate Invitational, checking in fifth (18:49.42). Pushing Olsen for top-freshman honors a year ago was Chelsea Hollingsworth. She ran a personal-best 5K, 18:34, at the Conference USA Championship to take 47th place. Amanda Tomlin also had a strong start to her career, collecting three top-50 performances with a season-best 5K time of 18:56.95 at the Greater Louisville Classic.
New to the squad this season are freshman Erin McGuirk and senior Karyn Guidry. McGuirk earned Mid-State 3A Conference Runner-of-the-Year honors all four cross country seasons after winning the league championship every campaign. She finished third at last fall's North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3A State Championships following a seventh-place showing as a junior.
After opening the season Friday with the Covered Bridge Open, the Pirates have a week off before traveling to N.C. State for the Wolfpack Invitational Friday, Sept. 16.