Royals Challenge serves as final tuneup for Eagles with SAC Championships on the horizon

Royals Challenge serves as final tuneup for Eagles with SAC Championships on the horizon

VIDEO: Tyler Stepp Interview 

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn.--  Coming off a solid weekend where Carson-Newman swept the Maryville College Invite on Oct. 1, the Eagles are back in action Friday evening at the Royals Challenge looking to build on their strong start to the season.

The women's team have won the first two meets of the season while the men placed-second overall at the Tusculum Open on Sept. 7 and first at the Maryville College Invitational. Both squads have showcased a number of runners who have placed in the top-10 overall in both meets with Amos Korir (Eldorett, Kenya) and Sky McCarter (Sevierville, Tenn.) notching a second-place finishes so far this season.

First-year cross country coach Tyler Stepp acknowledges the good results but knows there is still a lot to be done.  

"We have started out pretty strong so far in the small meets. We have competed against some teams that we thought were around the same talent level as us right now and we have come out on top," Stepp said. "I'm really pleased so far. The kids seem to be getting better and better every day and I can't thank [coach] Christian Brewer enough for all he's done so far for our program. I'm really pleased with where we are right now and hope it carries over into championship season."

Both Hannah Green (Talbott, Tenn.) and McCarter have paced the women's club while newcomer Korir along with Luke Greer (Abington, United Kingdom) have showed out for the men in two meets on the year.

"Amos and Luke have done a great job for us and those are two guys we kind of got at the end of the recruiting season. We were very blessed and fortunate to get them apart of or team because they are running great," Stepp said. "On the women's side, Hannah and Sky have been our top-two in the first two meets. They are running great and seem to be making a lot of progress in practice. Hopefully they can keep the momentum and keep running fast."

This weekend's cross country meet will feature the Eagles running at the Royals Challenge in Charlotte, N.C. With Hurricane Matthew hitting the East coast of Florida early Friday morning, the aftermath of the category four hurricane will potentially impact the meet as both North and South Carolina will be under heavy rainfall throughout the weekend.

"As a coach, I'm just going to bring my rain suit because there is really not much that I can do," Stepp said. "The kids love adversity and running in the rain, and I really think that shows the character of our team. We are just going to show up and race and hopefully we will run faster than the other teams."

Aside from the rain, the Eagles will also be taking part in a challenging running course. The course will feature a five-kilometer run for the women and an eight-kilometer course for the men. The meet will be divided into two sectors as the NAIA teams will compete together while all the Division II programs and everyone else in the other.

Over 20 schools will be competing in the Royals Challenge this weekend and Carson-Newman will be looking to gear up in what will be its final tune up before the South Atlantic Conference Championships.   

"This weekend will be a test for us. We know we are running well right now but want to see where we stack up with another of different schools. There is no better time to do that than in the meet before the conference championships. You always want to see where you stand going into conference and this weekend, there will be some conference teams present. We are going to go in there and see where we are and hopefully it will be good."

A complete recap will be available on following the conclusion of both the men and women's races.