TCU Harriers Set For Conference USA Meet
Oct. 30, 2003
The TCU men's and women's cross country teams return to action on Saturday, when they travel to Tampa, Florida to compete in the Conference USA Cross Country Championships, hosted by the University of South Florida. The men's 8K race will begin at 8:30 a.m. EST and includes 12 C-USA programs (all except Southern Miss and UAB). The 6K women's competition begins at 9:30 a.m. EST and will include competitors from all 14 C-USA schools.
Both TCU squads will be looking to improve on their 2002 conference finishes. The women placed fifth a year ago in the 14-team field, while the men placed ninth among 11 teams. Marquette is a three-time defending conference champion on the women's side, while Charlotte came away with the team victory in the men's event a year ago, their first Conference USA title.
"If we run well on the women's side, we can make it close," said TCU coach Derek Koonts. "Marquette would have to be the favorite, but if we have a good day and can get five of our runners in the top 15, we will have a shot to knock them off. We just need to focus on what we can do and not worry about what the other teams are doing."
The Frogs will be led by junior Mary Kinyanjui. Kinyanjui has posted top five finishes in each of the last three meets, and figures to be in the mix for the individual title. She is looking to join Glady's Keitany as the only women's conference cross country champion in TCU history. Keitany won the title twice, in the Western Athletic Conference in 2000 and in Conference USA in 2001.
"Mary should have a good shot to win the individual title," admitted Koonts. "It should be a three-person race, with Mary challenging Jodi Jakubek from Marquette and Christa Benton from USF for the top spot."
The rest of the TCU squad consists of Ami Butler, McKale Davis, Heather Isbell, Pattie Parker, Calandra Stewart and Katrina Zielinski.
"We'll have Butler running for the first time this fall, which should alleviate some of the pressure on the other girls," said Koonts. "She's a senior who's been through the wars before. I think Butler, along with McKale Davis are the keys for us. They need to run like they are capable of running for us to have a chance."
The Frogs have won just one conference cross country title in their history, taking the WAC team title on the women's side in 2000.
On the men's side TCU will be paced by junior Jackson Langat. An all-America middle distance runner on the track, Langat earned second team all-conference honors a year ago. The Frogs have had two men capture the individual conference title in the school's history, with Glen LeGros winning in 1991 and again in 1992 in the Southwest Conference, and Eliud Njubi taking the gold medal in the 2000 WAC Championships and in the 2001 C-USA meet.
"Jackson should have a shot at the top three with an outside chance to win it," said Koonts. "It's a flat course and the weather should be warm, so that plays into his favor."
In addition to Langat, the Frogs will send Chris Benassi, David Harris, Steven Lenney, Brad Maciulewicz, Alex Morris and Raita Yamanouchi to the starting line. Three of those runners, Benassi, Harris and Morris are freshman.
"Team-wise we should be much improved over last year," said Koonts. "Morris should run well as he has all season. We go in healthy and have our "A" squad ready to go. A good day would be a fifth or sixth place finish for us."