XC season begins at Tusculum Open

VIDEO: Tyler Stepp Interview 

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn.—The Carson-Newman cross country team is set to begin its season with the Tusculum Open Friday afternoon as both the men and women's clubs will embark on the five-kilometer run at the Holston Homes Course.

The meet will also serve as the first competition the Eagles have with their new coach. Tyler Stepp was hired by Carson-Newman Athletic Director Allan Morgan last February to take the helm of the program while also continuing his tenure as an assistant coach on the C-N track and field team.

Stepp knows there will be a whole lot of unknowns going into competition Friday afternoon, but is eager and excited to get this season underway.

"I think for the athletes it's really exciting. You can see a lot about how an individual is training and progressing during practice but I really think you get a sense for who they are and how they will compete when you get them out there and turn the lights on," Stepp said. "I think they are excited and I know I'm excited because it's kind of like a reward being out there in a competition after all the hard training. Training is training and that is how you get better, but it's nice to reward them with a competition like we will have on Friday."

The arch-rival Pioneers, who reside just 45-minutes up Interstate-81 towards Bristol, Tenn., will welcome a number of schools to campus for what is officially the second week of the collegiate cross country season.  

The running surface is unknown to this year's squad as none of the acting members of the Carson-Newman cross country team have competed at Tusculum through their undergraduate seasons so far.

"Obviously in this being my first season, I'm not too familiar with where we have opened up in the past, but I do know that Tusculum is one that I don't believe we have. I've built a relationship with Tusculum's coach and he's a really nice guy," coach Tyler Stepp said. "He invited us to the meet and it's a little bit of a rust-buster for us. It will be our first time out this season so more than anything, it's an opportunity for us to put our uniforms on, put the spikes on and to just go compete and have fun."

The Eagles will have their first crack at live competition on Friday in preparation for the 2016 SAC Cross Country Championships that will take place later in October. The men were slated 10th in the preseason polls while the women just came into the top-five in the fourth-slot.

Stepp, like most meets leading up to the conference showdown, will be treating Friday as essentially another training session. The only difference is that the Eagles will be able to garner their C-N uniforms while running against other competition in regards to going up against teammates in practice.      

"The course is a two-loop course and it's going to be a 5K course for both men and women. That's a little bit different because the men are usually used to running farther," Stepp said. "For us, it's exactly what we are looking for and what we need because it's not going to be too long of a race and it's going to fit right into our training schedule."

The Tusculum Open is scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m. Friday evening with the women running first and the men trekking on shortly thereafter. A complete recap of Friday's action can be found on cneagles.com following the races.