C-USA Cross Country Championships Set For Saturday
Oct. 27, 2004
TCU cross country is on a mission.
In the final year of competition in Conference USA, the TCU Horned Frog harriers would like to leave their mark at the league championships, which will be held Saturday, October 30 in Chicago, and at the South Central Region meet, slated for Saturday, November 13 in Waco.
"We have a women's team that is capable of being in the hunt for the conference title," acknowledged first year head coach Patrick Cunniff. "We certainly should be in the top two or three, and if we can put it together, we have a chance to dethrone Marquette."
The Golden Eagles have won the women's title in each of the three years that TCU has been in the league, but the Frogs narrowed the gap considerable last season, earning runner-up honors, just 12 points behind Marquette.
The Frogs appear to be strong at the top, as they feature the defending Conference USA and South Central Region individual champion, Mary Kinyanjui. Kinyanjui, a senior from Kiambu, Kenya, became just the second woman in TCU history to take the individual conference cross country crown, completing the 6K course last season in 20:45.20. Kinyanjui went on to capture South Central Region Female Athlete of the Year honors and finished 45th at the NCAA Championships last November. A slight calf injury has hampered her some this fall, but she expects to be at full strength for the conference and regional meets and has All-America aspirations.
"Mary certainly has a chance to repeat and join Glady's Keitany as TCU's only two-time women's cross country individual conference champion," said Cunniff. "She has been training extremely hard this fall and showed what she is capable of when she won the Texas A&M Invitational in September. There's no reason to think she can't qualify for the NCAA meet again this year."
Kinyanjui is not the only Frog looking for post-season accolades. Sophomore Calandra Stewart has turned in a solid fall after finishing 15th at the conference meet a year ago while earning third team all-league honors. A year of experience and training with Kinyanjui has helped her tremendously and she is a solid bet to move up in this year's individual standings.
A pair of freshmen who were teammates at Cedar Park (Texas) High School, Halie Bullin and Cassie Hostick, have improved as the season has progressed and look to be among the top four TCU finishers at the conference and regional meets. Both were highly regarded prep athletes and figure to be a solid one-two punch over their remaining collegiate careers at TCU.
Junior Katrina Zielinski and sophomore McKale Davis will vie for the important fifth and final scoring position for the Horned Frogs. Davis has been ahead of Zielinski during the early fall meets, but Zielinski has more experience and was an 11th place finisher at the C-USA meet a year ago, earning third team all-league recognition. If she can repeat that performance this year, it would be a big boost to the Horned Frog team chances.
"We are looking for as many girls as possible to have their best race of the year," said Cunniff. "The conference meet and the regional meet are the two meets we've set our sights on. If we can step up at the conference meet, it could propel us to even better things at regionals. Although we are in a strong region this year with SMU, Baylor, Arkansas and Texas A&M having top 25-type teams, we have the potential to be right in the mix with a bid for nationals on the line."
The TCU men are not blessed with the talent of the women's squad, but that doesn't mean they go into the conference meet without any team goals.
"We have a very young men's squad," noted Cunniff. "After a ninth place finish at the conference meet a year ago, our goal this year is to finish in the top half of the league. We want to continue to see progress, as most of the team returns next year."
The young Frog distance runners are led by a freshman, Matt Manly, who, like Bullin and Hostick, competed a year ago at Cedar Park High School.
"Matt has had an outstanding freshman season," said Cunniff. "If things break right, he could be in the mix for all-conference recognition. Certainly, he is a contender to be a top 20 finisher."
The men's squad features just one senior in Steven Lenney and one junior in Johnathan Bundren. Sophomores Alex Morris and David Harris will look to improve on their 2003 finishes, while J.T. Reinert, Houston Bolin and Brett McKnight will be competing in their first conference championship.
"The conference meet is the most important race of the year for the men," said Cunniff. "Individually, all of the guys will be trying to have their best race of the year.
"The regional meet will be a real challenge for the team," continued the first-year coach. "That meet is really our first step towards the 2005 cross country season. It will be a growing and learning experience, especially competing at the 10K distance. That meet will give us a taste of championship competition. Hopefully the experience will pay off down the road."
Although the realistic goals for the TCU squads differ entering the meet, the mission remains the same for both teams - leave their mark at the conference and regional championships.