Posted: Nov 02, 2017
LAKELAND, FL - The Moccasins women's cross country team will look to improve on last year's eighth-place finish as Florida Southern College and Central Florida's Polk County Sports Marketing host the NCAA Division II South Region men's and women's cross country championships this Saturday, Nov. 4, here at Holloway Park and Nature Preserve (2402 Holloway Park Drive). The women's 6K will get the day started at 8:30 a.m. with the men's 10K to follow at 9:45 a.m. Admission is free but the park charges $5 for parking.
Florida Southern's finish at last year's regional at Saint Leo University was the program's best finish since finishing fifth in 2009.
"Like last year, we're expecting team scores to be extremely close," says Moccasin assistant coach Stephanie Bylander. "With the addition of two potential top-10 teams to our region (Montevallo and Embry Riddle), that leaves little room for error. The plan is to run smart the first half to be able to really attack the second half of the race and the goal is to improve on our finish from last year."
The Moccasins look to be led by redshirt sophomore Hannah Nelson, who has been the top Moc in all four previous races this season and is coming off a 15th-place showing at the Sunshine State Conference Meet on Oct. 21 with a time of 24:05.69 for the 6K race. This will be Nelson's second NCAA regional appearance after competing as a redshirt freshman last season. Freshman Hannah Flemming was close behind Nelson, placing 16th at the SSC meet with a time of 24:09.91. Flemming has been the second Moccasin across the finish line in two of the last three meets.
Junior Aleksa Guerra has been among the top four for the Moccasins in each race this season, including being the second FSC finisher at the 5K Florida State Invitational with a 19:40.0 time. This will be her third time competing in the NCAA regional championship. Freshman Mercedes Mendoza has also been in the top four mix for FSC in each of the four previous races this season. She was right behind Guerra at the SSC meet, taking 23rd place.
Rounding out the Moccasin contingent will be junior Jolene Vergauwen, competing in her third NCAA regional, and sophomores Allison Wright, the 2016 SSC Freshman of the Year who is making a second appearance in the NCAAs, and Anna Brook Opalinski. Freshman Amber Winton is the alternate for Florida Southern in case of a last-minute injury or illness.
Lee, which is ranked 15th nationally and #1 in the South Region, heads up the field of women's teams entered in the regional. Other regionally ranked teams competing this Saturday include #2 Alabama-Huntsville, #3 Embry-Riddle, #4 Saint Leo, #5 Montevallo, #6 Union, #7 Florida Tech, #8 Tampa, #9 Mississippi College, and #10 Christian Brothers. Also joining Florida Southern will be Benedict, Delta State, Lynn, Morehouse, North Alabama, Nova Southeastern, Palm Beach Atlantic, West Alabama, and West Florida.