ROCK HILL, S.C. – As the Trojans begin their quest for a third South Atlantic Conference Championship in the last five seasons, the Anderson women’s cross country team has been predicted to finish fourth in the 2014 preseason coaches’ poll, as released by the league office Thursday morning.
The young Trojan squad, which includes five sophomores, one junior and one senior, edged Lenoir-Rhyne for the fourth spot in the poll with 91 points, while the Bears, who won the 2012 title, garnered 86 points in addition to collecting one first-place vote.
AU’s lone senior, Sydney Hazel, turned in another stellar season a year ago, pacing the Trojans to fourth place at the 2013 SAC Championships en route to garnering Second-Team All-SAC honors for the second consecutive season with her 11th-place finish.
Redshirt junior Devan Fisher returns for her third season of competition after posting a career-best 21:23.5 at the Royals Challenge a year ago.
Of the returning sophomore quintet, Olivia Gardner paced the Trojans in four events, while Grace Gerlock also claimed her personal-best at the Royals Challenge last season. Bari Robinson narrowly missed All-South Atlantic Conference and all-freshman accolades with her 15th-place finish at the SAC Championships last season. Mia Swiersz and Amber Worthy were two of the seven AU runners who posted season-best times at the Royals Challenge last season.
For the second consecutive season, the coaches’ poll nearly mirrors the results from the prior SAC Championship, with the top eight spots unchanged from the 2013 postseason event.
Defending champion Wingate collected 121 points and 11 first-place votes as the Bulldogs were projected to earn their second straight crown after winning the team title last season for the first time since 2007.
Queens, which captured second place in the school’s inaugural season in the league, tallied 110 points in the preseason poll, while Mars Hill earned 97 points and claimed the third slot. AU was followed by No. 5 Lenoir-Rhyne and No. 6 Brevard.
Lincoln Memorial was seventh in the preseason poll, Catawba was eighth, Carson-Newman ninth and Tusculum was 10th. Those teams placed sixth, eighth and 10th, respectively, at the 2013 SAC Championships.
Coker is No. 11 in the poll, with Newberry rounding out the 12-team field.
Anderson opens the season on Sept. 6 at the Queens Twilight meet in Charlotte, N.C.
2014 SAC Preseason Women’s Cross Country Coaches’ Poll
School (1st Place Votes) Points
Wingate (11) 121
Mars Hill 97
Lenoir-Rhyne (1) 86
Lincoln Memorial 59