ANDERSON, S.C. – The Anderson women’s cross country team will depend on gifted newcomers as well as several talented returners, as the Trojans will look to return to the top of the South Atlantic Conference this season.
AU came up just shy last season in its bid to become the first team to claim a third consecutive league title since Mars Hill won five straight SAC championships in the late nineties. Anderson snapped Lenoir-Rhyne’s two-year win streak with the Trojans’ first league title in their SAC debut in 2010.
The Trojans followed up by claiming their second consecutive conference crown in 2011 before finishing third a year ago. No SAC team has claimed three straight championships since Mars Hill claimed the five consecutive SAC crowns, while Carson-Newman notched three championships earlier in that decade.
Eighth-year head coach Randy Greer will look to replace the departed Emily Eckroth, who paced the Trojans in five events last season, by merging five returners with five newcomers to the squad.
“As a whole, this will be one of our most talented groups in years,” said Greer. “We will be talented, but they will need time to adjust to collegiate competition. They will have experience, just not at this level. They’ll gain valuable experience quickly and transition to this level, while having success.”
Paced by a pair of juniors – Sydney Hazel and Madison Guest – along with seniors Hannah Robles and Rachel Westberry and sophomore Devan Fisher, the Trojan squad expects to be in the hunt for their third SAC title in four years.
“Sydney, Madison and Hannah are all potential top five runners and are capable of competing for the top spot on the team,” added Greer. “The team will be young, but dangerous. Emily was phenomenal last year and was a big loss, but I expect this trio to step up.”
Greer expects incoming freshmen Bari Robinson, Amber Worthy, Mia Swiersz, Grace Gerlock and Olivia Gardner to contribute quickly.
“With the addition of Bari and Olivia, we will have a very solid top five and potentially have our strongest team - one through five - that we have ever had. Robinson, Gardner and Worthy are three runners that will compete hard for spots in the top five.”
Anderson will travel to Spartanburg, S.C., opening its slate at USC Upstate’s Eye Opener on Sept. 6, and two weeks later, AU travels to Rock Hill, S.C., to compete in the Winthrop Invitational for the second consecutive season and third time in the last five years. Last year, Eckroth paced the women’s squad to an 18th-place finish.
Anderson will get a preview of the NCAA Southeast Regional course on Sept. 28, when the Trojans are slated to participate in the UNC Charlotte Invitational for the third straight year. With Eckroth again leading the way, AU’s women finished 26th.
On Oct. 11, the Trojans return to the McAlpine Creek Park course for the Royals Cross Country Challenge, hosted by Queens University and will travel to Black Mountain, N.C. on Oct. 26 for the South Atlantic Conference Championships, which will be hosted by Mars Hill. Following a two-week layoff, AU will return to Charlotte for the NCAA Southeast Region Championships.