MONTEVALLO, ALA – The Peach Belt Conference will run its 22nd annual women's cross country championships this Saturday, Oct. 20, from the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Ala. The race will feature the largest field run at any PBC cross country event since 1999 as all 12 women's teams will toe the line for the 9:45 am (central time) start on the Montevallo Cross Country course, just adjacent to campus and the Falcon baseball field.
Montevallo hosts the cross country championships for the first time and their first PBC Championship event of any kind since joining the league in 2009. The women will run the same 6k course most saw at the Falcon Classic on Sept. 22. Also new this year is the inclusion of Young Harris, who joined the PBC in the fall. The Mountain Lions will be competing in their first PBC Championship of any kind and one of the few they will be permitted to participate in this year. YHC is undergoing the process of moving up to the NCAA Division II level and cannot compete in a postseason league tournament where an automatic bid is awarded. Cross country has no automatic bids.
The 2012 women's championship should prove to be among the most competitive the league has ever seen. The top 14 runners in the 2011 PBC Championship were named All-Conference. Each and every one of them return for the 2012 event. Six different PBC teams have won events this season with six different individuals claiming meet titles.
For the 2012 championship, the host Montevallo Falcons may have the edge on everyone as they run on their home course for the third time this season. The Falcons came out of nowhere to win the 2011 PBC Championship at USC Aiken last year and were third at the Falcon Classic in September. Senior Haley Evans, the defending PBC conference champion, won the pre-conference meet in September with a time of 23:20, the fastest 6k run in the Peach Belt this year. Teammate Kaley Glover has finished in the top five in three of her four runs this season, including the Falcon Classic, and was second at the Early Bird Classic also run at Montevallo.
Clayton State is the highest-ranked PBC team in the regional polls at #2. The Lakers won the Falcon Classic in September and seem poised to make a run at their first PBC title. Clayton State has finished no worse than sixth in any race they have competed in this season, including an impressive fifth place finish at the 27-team Disney Classic in their last outing. Racquel Valadez finished fourth at the Falcon Classic in 23:34, the fourth-fastest 6k time in the PBC this year, and has led the team in every race. Jessica Smith and Samantha Walling were named PBC All-Conference last year and each have a top-10 finish this season.
Columbus State had their string of six straight PBC Championships snapped in 2011 and want to start a new run this year. The Cougars have won three of the four events they have run this season, including the Division I-heavy Jacksonville State Invitational on Oct. 5. The sister tandem of Moneque and Moneka English have been among the top three Cougars at every race this year. Moneque won the season-opening Albany Invitational and was second at the Falcon Classic in a time of 23:25, the third-fastest 6k in the PBC. Moneka ran that same race in 23:49, the 11th-fastest time in the league. Rayna Green has finished in the top 10 in all four events this year, including a 23:46 (9th fastest) at the Falcon Classic.
UNC Pembroke held the #1 spot in the region for four straight weeks this season and are a strong contender for their first PBC title. The Braves won the season-opening Gamecock Invitational and were second at last week's Wingate Invitational. Livia Mahaffie was named the 2011 PBC Runner of the Year, an award voted on by head coaches prior to the PBC Championship, and may repeat that honor in 2012 after winning at the Gamecock and finishing third at Wingate. Kyndal Boykin was second at the Gamecock while Annette Sem was the second Brave to cross the line at Wingate.
Flagler will see the course at Montevallo for the first time on Saturday as the team did not run at the Falcon Classic. The Saints have two top-five finishes this season including a fourth place at the Embry-Riddle Classic. Kaitlin Rodriguez finished 27th at the huge Florida State Invitational, covering the 6k track in 23:21, the second-fastest 6k run in the Peach Belt this season. Taylor Strekel, the 2011 PBC Freshman of the Year, also covered that course in under 24 minutes.
Georgia College has also not run at Montevallo so far this season but have a great chance to win their first PBC title. The Bobcats were second at the 19-team Mercer Invitational and third at the Jaguar Invitational. Taylor Roeck has led GC in all four races this season including an 11th at the Jaguar and 12th at Mercer. Allison Lones was named PBC All-Conference last season and finished 14th at Mercer.
Admission to the PBC Cross Country Championships is free.