C-N cross country set for '16 season

Video: Tyler Stepp Interview

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn.— Carson-Newman cross country coach Tyler Stepp has announced the 2016 cross country schedule as well as insights on the team and its members during what will be the coach's first-season at the helm of the Eagle program.

Stepp was hired in February of 2016 after spending the three seasons prior as an assistant with the Carson-Newman track and field teams and is still an acting member on the coaching staff. With track and field, Stepp oversaw the jumpers which saw two national qualifiers compete for national championships in the spring of 2016.

Transitioning to cross country now for the first time, Stepp is eager and excited to get the season underway.

"We are real excited. Anytime you do something for the first time, there is a lot of unknowns," Stepp said. "We are going into this thing together and we are excited. We had a chance to work together a little at the end of last year and that was a lot of fun. So, I did had a chance to build some relationships with the student athletes and that's the most important part."

The Eagles will begin the season at the Tusculum Open on Sep. 9 before taking nearly a month off before the next competition at the Ashville Cross Country Challenge on Oct. 1. A week later, Carson-Newman will embark on the Royals Challenge on October 7 as the final tune up before heading to the South Atlantic Conference Championships at Brevard, N.C. on Oct. 22.

Following the South Atlantic Conference Championships, C-N will conclude the season at the Southeast Region Championships in Montevallo, Ala. on November 5. If the Eagles place any national qualifiers following the 2016 regular season, Stepp will send the selected athletes to the NCAA Championships at St. Leo, Fla. on Nov. 18.

All in all, Carson-Newman will have five guaranteed meets on the season with an opportunity for some players to compete in six competitions depending on their national status.

"We feel like as a staff that our cross country emphasis should be on great training days," Stepp said. "We want to compete well, but we want to it because we trained well."

The first-year head man has a number of experienced runners back on the rosters this season as Carson-Newman returns a combined nine upperclassman and three seniors across both the men and women's landscape. Alec Bross (Charlotte, N.C.) and Nick Guerra (Richardson, Texas) represent senior leadership on the men's team while Sarah Honaker (Mason, Ohio) will be the lone senior on the women's side.   

"On the women's side, we have a great foundation of depth coming back to the program," Stepp said. "Where we finished last year at conference on the women's side, that's nothing to scoff at. I think with that same group of athletes, along with the few recruits we have coming in here at the very end, we can be tough."

The Carson-Newman women's cross country team is coming off its highest SAC placing in recent memory with a fourth-place showing at the conference meet in October of last season. Pricah Jemeli (Eldoret, Kenya) also returns as the only 2015 All-SAC selection on either squad with a second-team award last season.     

Jemeli's first season in the program a year ago saw the fleet-footed runner win two meets en route to a SAC All-Freshman team selection by season's end. The Eldoret, Kenya native finished ninth out of 90-plus runners at the SAC Championships to wrap up the regular season.   

"Priscah is great and the thing about her is that she is a great communicator with me on what she feels like she needs," Stepp said. "In being from Kenya, her background in running is different from the ones of our local kids or kids that grew up in America. She has also been great for us as a recruiting tool to help get our name out to other great runners."

Hannah Green (Talbott, Tenn.) also returns on the women's side following a 2015 season where the runner finished in second-place behind Jemeli in seven of the eight meets prior to finishing first for the Eagles at the NCAA Southeast Regional Meet on November 7. Green ran a season-best time of 19:00.18 in the five-kilometer run at the Orange/Blue Meet to kick off the 2015 campaign.    

Aside from Jemeli and Green, Honaker returns as the lone senior on the women's club this season. Honaker brings loads of experience to the table as the longest-tenured Eagle has logged 18 meets over a three-year career in Mossy Creek.

The men's team will be looking for improvement in the fall of 2016 after wrapping up the 2015 campaign with a 10th-place showing at the SAC Championships. The club will turn to both Bross and Guerra for leadership as the duo has combined to compete in 46 meets over three years in the program.

Anthony Jackson (Manchester, Tenn.) will suit up for another year in Mossy Creek as the freshman finished second on the squad a season ago in three meets behind former C-N All-Southeast Region cross country runner Lachlan Dickie. Jackson's top-time in 2015 came at the SAC Championships where the first-year athlete ran a 28:13.3 time in the 10-kolimeter course.

Along with the two seniors and Jackson leading the way for the Eagles going into the new season, Luke Greer (Abington, United Kingdom) returns for his junior campaign.   

"The men are in a little bit of a different place compared to the women. Numbers wise, we are okay, but we have to continue to work on our depth," Stepp. "I think we have some people coming in who can be an influence as a runner and as a team leader, and we certainly have some leaders returning back on this team. I think we can be pretty solid, we just have to get better as the year goes on and see where we are."

As the Eagles return to campus over the course of the next few days before classes begin on August 24, Stepp will continue to push the team to brink during training sessions in preparation for another cross country season of competition in the SAC.





September 9

Tusculum Open

12:00 p.m.

October 1

Ashville Cross Country Challenge

12:00 p.m.

October 7

Royals Challenge

12:00 p.m.

October 22

South Atlantic Conference Championships

12:00 p.m.

November 5

Southeast regional Championships

12:00 p.m.

November 18

NCAA Championships

12:00 p.m.