C-USA draws closer

The USF’s cross country teams are steadily approaching the Nov. 2 date circled on their calendars, which denotes the Conference USA meet in Hattiesburg, Miss.

With only two races remaining until the conference meet, it is time for the Bulls to step it up a notch in order to be prepared for the season’s biggest race.

The Bulls will try to enhance their performances when they travel to Gainesville for the Florida Intercollegiate meet Saturday.

USF coach Greg Thiel said this meet is an important one for the Bulls, not only because it’s getting near the conference meet, but also because it involves many of the Florida’s cross country teams.

“This meet is really like a state championship,” Thiel said. “We really want to do well this weekend.”

Florida, Florida State and Miami will all participate Saturday, giving the Bulls the opportunity to be recognized as the state’s premier cross country program.

Thiel said Florida State will be the Bulls’ top competition on the women’s side but that his team is capable of winning the meet.

“We need to step up this weekend and do what better teams are expected to do, and that is to win,” Thiel said.

On the men’s side, Florida and Florida State both have good squads, and Thiel said he would like to see the men’s team finish in the top two.

The Bulls stumbled a bit Sept. 27 at the Great America meet in Charlotte, N.C.

Bad weather combined with an extremely difficult course served as a double whammy for the Bulls, prompting Thiel to say his teams may have taken a small step backward.

However, the low finish at the Great America meet wasn’t the most disappointing thing for the Bulls.

Thiel said the most disappointing thing was that the Bulls didn’t compete at the level at which he feels they’re capable.

“I don’t think it really mattered where we finished if I thought we competed the way we’re capable of,” Thiel said. “I don’t think we did everything we could have at (the Great America meet).”

Thiel said he thinks the Bulls will correct the mistakes they made in the previous meet because his teams know it’s getting down to crunch time.

“They have been reminded there are only two meets left before conference,” Thiel said.

Up to this point in the season, Thiel said he’s satisfied with the performances of both teams, but he’s also impressed with some of the individual performances.

Andrew Smith and Christa Benton have paced the Bulls so far this season, but two freshmen have also caught the coach’s eye.

Sean Burris and Jessica Hellender gained praise from their coach for the progress and achievements in their first year of running at the collegiate level.

“Jessica has really done well for us this year,” Thiel said. “Sean Burris, as a freshman, the races he’s run so far have really been impressive.”