VIDEO: Tyler Stepp Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The Carson-Newman cross country teams will travel to Wingate, N.C. on Saturday morning to participate in the NCAA Division II Cross Country Southeast Regional.
"Anytime you go to a new championship meet you're not really sure of what to expect with the new distance." Carson-Newman cross country coach Tyler Stepp said, "I expected them to move fast at the conference meet and they did. Now, I expect them to move forward going into the Southeast Regional meet."
The women's team will hit the course with a 9 a.m. start time. The Eagles will be competing in their first six-kilometer race of the season. It is the longest distance that the Eagles have ran thus far this season. Last season the team finished in 17th place at the Southeast Regionals.
The women's cross country team is looking to send their first runner to the national meet since the 2008 season. Aubrey Morris was the last Eagle to achieve the feat when she went three consecutive years from 2006-2008. Morris won the Southeast regional meet in 2006.
Junior runner Priscah Jemeli (Eldoret, Kenya) is the pace runner for the women's team. Jemeli has crossed the finish-line first for the Eagles in three of the team's events this season. The Kenyans fastest five-kilometer time of the season was 19:55.2 set at the Allen and Phyllis Morgan Invitational-Battle at Mossy Creek.
"Priscah has really had a bounce back year," Stepp replied. "Two years ago she ran really well at the conference meet and last year she did not run as well. This year she came back and kind of put on a show at the conference meet and we are really proud of her efforts."
A trio of juniors come in right behind Jemeli. Lindsey Williams (Wilmington, N.C.), Bekah White (Rockford, Tenn.) and Skye McCarter (Sevierville, Tenn.) have all had top-15 finishes this season. White had her best finish at the season opening meet. The Rockford native finished sixth overall with a five-kilometer time of 21:08. Williams has finished in the top-three on the team in three-of-four races this year. McCarter has two top-25 finishes this season.
Kathie O'Neill (Sevierville, Tenn.), Sarah Sharp (Lewis Center, Ohio) and Jennifer Warren (Piney Flats, Tenn.) are in the next grouping for the Eagles. O'Neill is coming off of injury and competed officially for the Eagles for the first time all season at the South Atlantic Conference Championships. Sharp's best finish this season was a top-25 finish at the Tusculum Open, while Warren's best finish to the season came at the Allen and Phyllis Morgan Invitational-Battle at Mossy Creek.
"She (O'Neill) was really the story of our conference meet." Stepp responded, "She was the reason we did as well as we did because she came in and set a new personal record by two minutes. We are really proud of her and hope that she can carry that momentum into this weekend."
Ashlyn Page (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Esther Njeri (Eldoret, Kenya) round out the Eagles cross country team. The pair will look to build upon a top-30 finish at the Allen and Phyllis Morgan Invitational-Battle at Mossy Creek.
A season ago the men's team finished in 19th place at the Southeast Regionals, Kelvin Ronoh (Eldoret, Kenya), Amos Korir (Eldoret Kenya) and Luke Greer(Abington, Northhampton, United Kingdom) will try and put in the Eagles back in the mix on Saturday morning.
The men's cross country team will race at 10:15 a.m. The men will compete in their first 10-kilometer race of the season. The Eagles will look to send their first runner on to nationals for the first time in recent memory. Lachlan Dickie was the last Eagle to finish in the top-20 of the Southeast Regional in the 2015 season.
Greer gives the Eagles there best chance to send a runner on to the national meet. The senior has won three races so far this season and finished in second place at the SAC Championships a few weeks ago. The native of the United Kingdom picked up First-Team All-SAC honors for his efforts this season.
"You know what you got in a guy like Luke," Stepp said. "He is gritty, tough, fast, talented and he races well. We expect Luke to be competing for a win this weekend."
Ronoh has had multiple top-10 finishes this season was named to both the All-Freshman and Honorable Mention All-SAC teams this season. Korir has finished inside the top-20 of every race so far this season. All-SAC performer's best finish happened at the Allen and Phyllis Morgan Invitational when he placed sixth overall.
"I think that we have a lot more quality up top this year." Stepp responded, "We had three guys finish in the top-20 at conference this year."
Anthony Jackson (Manchester, Tenn.) and Cameron McKinley are right behind the top three runners for the Eagle squad. Jackson's best finish in a meet this season was a top-15 finish at the Allen and Phyllis Morgan Invitational. McKinley has finished consistently in the fifth spot for the Eagles so far this season.
"We are expecting Anthony Jackson to run his best 10-K ever this weekend," Stepp said.
A full recap and results of the meet will be posted at the conclusion of the men's race on Saturday morning at cneagles.com.