For most, to get an award that is given once a week in a seven-week season is a wonderful accomplishment.
To get that award two times in one season is amazing, but for South Florida’s cross country runner Christa Benton, it is a blip on the radar on the way to her team chasing the Conference USA title.
“We’re real excited about that because, to get that twice in one season, it’s really tough to do,” USF cross country coach Greg Thiel said. “It’s well deserved. Sometimes they look at other schools, and they usually pick someone else to win.”
Even with the amount of difficulty going into winning the award twice in one season, Benton still remains humble.
“I hadn’t followed it much, but I was surprised both times,” Benton, a sophomore said.
That is all she had to say dealing with herself and the announcement of the award, instead commenting on her team’s goals and the upcoming conference championship.
“As a team, we set the high goal of trying to win conference,” Benton said. “It won’t be easy, but we hope to try to do that. We’ve been doing our best each meet, and I think our team is ready to go.”
USF is in position to capture its second C-USA championship in three years when it travels to Hattiesburg, Miss. Nov. 11.
So far Benton and USF have finished first at the Bulldog Stampede Sept. 14 and the Gator Invitational Oct. 5. The Bulls also finished top-five in two other races.
Benton has only finished outside of the top three once this season, at No. 14 in the Great America Cross Country Festival.
Benton’s individual achievements are attributed to her team-first mentality.
“When you are wrapped up in a whole team effort, it helps individually,” Thiel said. “We tell people that Benton makes our entire team better. She’s got a presence about her. She’ll never worry about her own accomplishments.”
Her individual accomplishments hope to add to the teams as they continue to be one of the top programs in C-USA.
The Bulls finished in first place ahead of Marquette in 2000, and in second behind Marquette in 2001.
“Marquette has always been right there being our team to beat,” Benton said. “I think that it won’t be easy to beat them, but that’s what we are going to try and do because I think our best will be good enough.”
One reason Marquette will be tough is because of its top runner, Susan Barth. Barth is also a two-time winner of the C-USA Athlete of the Week.
“We haven’t really raced this season, so it’s hard to tell right now,” Benton said. “I’m just going to try and do our best there.”
With the two top teams looking for another championship, most of the focus will be on Benton vs. Barth.
“You have a race within the race,” Thiel said. “The two best runners in the conference, as well as the two best teams. Not only is it a team battle, but some individual battles.”
Benton is constantly putting the team battles first, but if the race does come down neck to neck for her or her teammates, she is confident the Bulls will come out ahead.
“That’s the race – to go for it,” Benton said. “Our team will look for the Marquette people and try to stay ahead of them.”
Even though Benton will not say she is above the rest of the team, the Bulls are willing to let her take the reins and lead them to the conference title.
“When a distance runner gets in a groove, kind of like a hitter in baseball, it’s the same thing,” Thiel said. “When they get in a groove, it keeps on going, they just get in a zone, and it’s tough to beat.”
USF tennis fall finale
South Florida tennis has one more match of the fall season this weekend at the Omni Hotels Southeast Championships in Lexington, Ky.
College tennis teams split the year into two seasons with an individual season in the fall and the team season in the spring.
The fall season is mostly regarded as a practice season for the team and conference schedules of the spring. Teams use the time to come together and drive up individual rankings for a chance to raise team rankings.
The Bulls have one final chance in Lexington to work out the bugs before the team season begins.
If momentum is on USF’s side they should fare well at the Southeast Championships.
USF swept Florida Atlantic in Coral Gables, Fla., Oct. 12 in both individuals and doubles matches.
The results are as follows:
Uli Kiendl def. Cristian Paiz 6-0, 6-2; Nadim Naser def. Kevin Obletz 6-2, 6-1; Jorge Escallon def. Oscar Plotnik 6-1, 2-6, ret.; Fredrico Barton def. Jeremy Perez 7-5, 1-0 ret.; Renato Silveria def. Thiago Cunha 6-1, 6-3; Juan Barragan def. Ernest Diaz 6-4, 6-1
Kiendl/Barragan def. Cunha/Paiz 8-2; Silveria/Escallon def. Obletz/Perez 8-5; Naser/Barton def. Diaz/Kowalski 8-1
Getting past pathetic
Coming off two outings USF coach Gigi Fernandez called “pathetic”, the women’s tennis team leaves today for Mobile, Ala., to compete in the ITA South Regionals.
After losing 47 of 60 matches so far this fall, the Bulls have been working on a number of things. After returning from a tournament in Gainesville earlier this month, Fernandez said that everything needed work, but that nothing was particularly emphasized.
“We work on something specific every day,” she said. “We’ve been playing a lot of matches within the team over the last few weeks, so we’re ‘matched up.'”
This weekend’s tournament will conclude the 2002 tennis season. After the event, the team will have two more weeks of scheduled practices, before taking a break until January.
The tournament is hosted by the University of South Alabama and features players from defending national champion Georgia as well as Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami. The South is considered by many to be the most talented region of women’s intercollegiate tennis in the country.
“I think we’re just going to gain experience and see what the competition is,” Fernandez said.
Diarra dying to be a Bull
The USF men’s basketball team could be close to garnering its second recruit for the 2003-04 season. Konimba Diarra, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound center out of Our Savior New American in Centereach, N.Y., is expected to make a verbal commitment to USF.
The Bulls earlier got a commitment from Seward County (Kan.) Community College point guard Ricardo Freeman.
Diarra is a former teammate of current USF freshman Sheldon Franklin, who played at Our Savior before attending the Laurinburg Institute (N.C.) last season.
Diarra was also considering St. Joseph’s, Hofstra and Stony Brook.
“South Florida is probably in the lead,” Diarra told PrepStars.com. “One of my teammates is there that was at Our Savior, and I like the coaching staff. They work with big men well, and the warm weather is better.”
Diarra visited USF two weeks ago and was on the sidelines at the Southern Miss-USF football game.
Rivalshoops.com lists Diarra as the 26th best center in the class of 2003, while Athlon Sports ranks him among its top 200 seniors. The native of Mali is described as a shot blocking and rebounding presence with a developing post game.
However, Our Savior assistant Gary Daquino was unaware of Diarra making any announcements Wednesday.
“I don’t think he’s made any commitments, and I think I would know,” Daquino said.