This weekend will be the biggest meet so far this year for the USF women’s and men’s cross country teams. The Bulls travel to Greenville, N.C., Saturday to compete in the Conference USA championships, hosted by East Carolina.
Traditionally, USF has been dominant at the conference championship. Last year, the USF men’s team took home the championship, while the women’s team finished second, 12 points behind Marquette. The Bulls men’s team won the championship in 1997, 1998 and 2000, while the women’s team won in 1998 and 1999.
USF coach Heather Curtiss said the women’s team can turn the tables on Marquette this year.
“The plan is to win,” Curtiss said. “We have a formidable opponent in Marquette. We can beat them. We have the talent to beat them.
“We have to perform as a team. We cannot have an off day. Marquette is that good.”
Kristy Fuller, Oct. 2 Conference USA Athlete of the Week, will lead the women’s team. Curtiss expects her to challenge for a top-three finish, with a possibility of finishing first. As a sophomore last year, Fuller finished 19th with a time of 22 minutes, 44.92 seconds. Curtiss also expects Tara Quinn to finish in the top five. Last year, Quinn finished eighth with a time of 22:01.43. Both Fuller and Quinn posted better times earlier this year.
Seven athletes, including Tiffany Quinn, Christa Benton, Jen Walczuk, Ashley McComas and Cori Kill, will represent the women’s team. Team points are calculated by adding up individual placings. The team with the lowest score wins the meet. “Our team’s success will depend on our No. 4 and 5 runners. If they run well, we have a chance to win,” Curtiss said.
Jim Vitale and Adam Chumbley will lead the men’s team into this weekend’s championship. Chumbley is the only remaining member of last year’s championship team. As a freshman last year, he placed 32nd with a time of 26:14.75. Curtiss expects a good overall effort from the men’s team, and expects many on the team to run their personal bests.
“Adam Chumbley has what it takes to finish in the top 15,” Curtiss said. “Jim Vitale also has the talent to step it up.”The conditions of the race should play to the benefit of the USF runners. The course conditions should provide a very good race, with very fast times, Curtiss said. The race-time temperature is expected to be in the 60s.
“Distance runners like the cool weather. Many of our athletes are from the North. Cool weather will be a blessing,” Curtiss said.