The Florida Southern women's cross country teams will get the 2017 season underway this Saturday, Sept. 2, with the Holloway Park Preseason Festival, co-hosted with Southeastern University, at Lakeland's Holloway Park and Nature Preserve. The men's 5K starts the day's festivities at 7:30 a.m. with the women's 3K to follow at 8 a.m. A 5K fundraiser for both FSC and SEU alumni will cap the morning's activities at 8:30.
"It's a shorter race to help prep for the season," says Moccasin head coach Ben Martucci. "We're hoping that it may become an annual event."
Florida Southern will also be the host institution, along with the Central Florida's Polk County Sports Marketing, for the NCAA Division II South Regional, which will also be held at Holloway Park on Nov. 4. It is the first time that Florida Southern has hosted an NCAA cross country postseason event.
Following the Sept. 2 meet, the Moccasins will have a couple of weeks to prepare for their first big challenge of the season at the Trevecca D2 Showcase in Nashville, TN on Sept. 23. Fifteen schools competed in the inaugural event last season which was held at Vaughn's Gap, a course that has been a regular site for the SEC Championships.
The Moccasins then return to Holloway Park on Sept. 29 for the flrunners.com Invitational before heading back on the road for the final two regular season meets on Oct. 6 at Florida State University in Tallahassee and Oct. 13 at the University of South Florida in Tampa
The 2017 Sunshine State Conference Championships will be on Oct. 21 in Fort Lauderdale. Last season, the men placed second while the women came in third.
Martucci looks to Allison Wright, Hannah Nelson and Aleksa Guerra to lead the squad this fall. Wright was an All-SSC performer as well as the SSC Freshman of the Year last season after placing 10th in the SSC Meet to earn All-Championship honors as well. Nelson, a red-shirt sophomore, was 18th at the SSC meet a year ago while Guerra was in the top five finishers for the Moccasins in three of her five meets in 2016.
Martucci expects Mercedes Mendoza, Hannah Flemming and Stephanie Hansen to add needed depth to the Moccasin attack. Mendoza was the MVP for Freedom High in Tampa that qualified for the regional championship in each of the last two seasons while Flemming was a three-time All-Conference performer for Astronaut High School in Titusville, FL. Hansen starred at Vanguard High in Ocala, FL where her team won four consecutive county championship during her prep career.
"We want to keep improving," says Martucci. "It's something we have been doing every year since Stephanie Bylander (assistant coach) has been here. We want to be in the hunt for the SSC championships and do well at regionals."
The Moccasins hope to conclude their season at the NCAA National Championships on Nov. 18 in Evansville, IN.