Young Moccasins Look to Challenge for SSC Title

Young Moccasins Look to Challenge for SSC Title

The Florida Southern women's cross country team, winner of seven Sunshine State Conference championships – second most in the league – will be looking to capture its first league title since 2006 as the Moccasins travel to South County Park in Boca Raton for the SSC Championship this Saturday. The women's 6K race gets underway at 8:45 a.m., preceded by the men's 8K race at 7:45 a.m.

The Moccasins placed third last season, the highest finish for the squad since placing as league runner-up in 2009. Saint Leo University is the defending league champion and is led by Colett Rampf, who is gunning for an unprecedented fourth straight SSC individual title.

With the addition of Palm Beach Atlantic, this year's field will be the largest in league history with nine teams entered.

"Overall, we have a young team." said Moccasin assistant coach Stephanie Bylander, "We have five underclassmen and no seniors. It makes for an enthusiastic group that wants to build on the success of last year's third-place finish."

"We want to continue to challenge the status quo in the SSC and South Region," continued Bylander. "We plan to focus on a strategy that worked for us last year and this year and that is to compete strongly as a pack by tightening the gap across the top five runners. We'll race smart over the first half and then close strong over the last 3,000 meters."

Florida Southern will take 11 runners into the race, led by red-shirt sophomore Hannah Nelson, who has been the Moccasins' top finisher in each of the three previous races this season. Last year, Nelson was the second FSC runner to cross the finish line at the SSC Championship, placing 18th with a 22:45.15 time. Junior Aleksa Guerra was the second FSC runner in two of the three races this fall and was 33rd in last year's SSC championship with a 23:35.49. As a freshman, she was the Moccasins top finisher, taking 19th place at 24:19.0 in the championship.

Other returnees with experience at the SSC championship include juniors Amanda Slattery and Jolene Vergauwen, and sophomores, Anna Brook Opalinski and Allison Wright.

Slattery has competed in two meets so far in 2017 for Florida Southern and was 33rd at last year's SSC meet with a 23:19.11 and 30th in 2016 with a 25:26.6 time. Vergauwen has run in each meet this season and was the fourth Moccasin at the SSC race in 2016 with a 28th place finish (23:07.31) and the second Moc in 2015, placing 23rd (24:47.1).

Opalinski has also run in all three previous races this season and was 49th at the SSC in 2016 while Wright, who ran in the opening meet of this year, will be returning to action at the event where she placed ninth last season (22:03.86), earning SSC All-Championship honors as well as SSC Freshman of the Year accolades.

Five freshman will be competing in their first-ever collegiate postseason event in Hannah Flemming, Mercedes Mendoza, Becca Rodriguez, Madison Santore, and Amber Winton.

Flemming was the second Moccasin finisher at the Trevecca D2 Showcase with a 20:13.9 and the fourth at the FSU Invite, placing 74th (20:18.9) while Mendoza was third in the last two races, taking 46th at the Trevecca event (20:27.3) and 49th at the FSU meet (19:43.8). Rodriguez will be making her collegiate debut while Winton has competed in all three races in 2017, turning in a top time of 21:12.6 at FSU.

The Sunshine State Conference will provide limited live streaming on the championship on the SSC Digital Network. Visit the Championship Home Page for more information.