JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The time Carson-Newman cross country coach Tony Parrilla has waited for all season has finally arrived.
This weekend, Parrilla's Eagles are set to run in the South Atlantic Conference Championships hosted by Catawba in Salisbury, N.C.
Last season, the men's team finished in ninth-place and the women placed 10th. But now, Parilla views Saturday's meet as an opportunity to place Carson-Newman back on the SAC map.
"I'm just going to look for fast times and just everybody just being really hungry and really competitive," Parrilla said. "We really need to establish our team and this is going to be that time to do it."
The Eagles return to the cross country course after having the last two weekends to recover from a long season. C-N last raced at the regional preview Falcon Classic in Montevallo, Ala.
"I was really able to beat the kids up for a long time to get them ready for conference, so what we have been doing is we've been resting," Parrilla said of the time away from the course. "We have been healing up our nicks and bruises and getting some good, key workouts and just getting fast," Parrilla said.
The men's team was picked to finish eighth in the preseason poll released by the conference. Carson-Newman has never won the men's SAC Championship; the closest the team has come was a second-place showing in the inaugural event back in 1993.
Last year, then-freshman Nick Guerra (Richardson, Texas) led the Eagles, finishing in 38th-place. Mars Hill has won the last 17 men's SAC titles.
This year, the team has been led by freshman Lachlan Dickie (Knoxville, Tenn.) who has finished first in every race but one. The other runner to lead the team was fellow freshman Luke Greer (Abington, United Kingdom) who joined the Eagles midway through the year. Greer is also a member of the men's soccer team.
"Everybody is going to be a contributor. We have everybody from Lach to Luke and from Patrick Stump to Nick Guerra to Alec Bross to everybody has really been in there working really hard," Parrilla said. "Tyler Johnson, Josh, I mean everybody as well as Mark Edwards has had some great workouts, so we are going to have a great pack.
Our one and two are going to be well they are at, but our three, four, five and six are going to be just as key."
The Carson-Newman women's team is looking to return to its once championship-winning form. The Eagles have won five SAC titles with the last one coming back in 2005. Those five titles are the second-most in the league, just trailing Mars Hill's eight.
Last season, then freshman Sara Honaker (Mason, Ohio) is the top-returning runner after she placed in 52nd. Wingate won the 2013 edition of the event.
The 2014 edition of the women's team has been led by a three-headed attack: junior Hannah Kiser (Cedar Park, Texas), Honaker and freshman Tori Gaul (Sailsbury, N.C.). A team predicted to finish ninth in the preseason poll also features six runners who are set to run in the first SAC Championship.
"Since there is no real stress to be that fifth person, I think Storyie Miller has had a great time stepping up. She has really worked hard and gotten into a good racing shape," Parrilla said. "Aiyana is finally able to breathe again. We have Duncan who has really gotten her mind and her body into what we getting ready to do. Amber Farmer, Sarah Sharp, everybody is really fighting to hit those spots, the four, five and six are going to be really key."
The South Atlantic Conference Championship will be run Saturday, November 8th in Salisbury, N.C. Full results will be available on cneagles.com following the event.