Oct 27, 2012 12:21 AM by UL Sports Information
The Ragin' Cajuns men's and women's cross country teams made the journey here on Thursday to compete in the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Cross Country Championships that take place on Saturday, Oct. 27, a meet which brings an end to the 2012 regular season.
The meet, hosted by Western Kentucky University, takes place at Kereiakes Park with the women's 5k at 10 a.m. and men's 8k at 11 a.m.
For Louisiana, it is the final team competition of a season that saw several freshman athletes make their mark on the program.
From Matt Rice and Cole Stafford on the men's side joining with senior Zach France to lead the men's squad to a pair of meet titles to Anna-Katherine Devitt serving as the "rock" on the women's side leading the team each time out, the future is bright for UL cross country.
"It's been a pretty exciting season up to this point with such a young group of runners," Cajuns track/cross country head coach Lon Badeaux said. "There have been good and bad performances, but we are pretty optimistic about our chances to be successful at the Sun Belt Championships."
The veterans of the Cajuns squad are Zach France on the men's side and Genevieve Roy on the women's side. Those two are being counted on to set the pace for the Cajuns corps of five freshmen on both sides that are making their inaugural appearance at the SBC Championships.
Though the number of veteran runners is low for Badeaux's squads, he believes that the newcomers have been tested enough throughout the season to make a mark in the event.
"It will take a full team performance this weekend," Badeaux said. "We are not a large, deep team, but I feel as though we are as talented as any other team in the league.
"Overall, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to compete for a championship."
France, who has appeared in the SBC event three previous times, seeks to improve upon his 21st place finish last season (26:30.3). As a team, UL's men aims to raise the standard and climb higher than last season's ninth place finish in Badeaux's inaugural season.
Roy only has one prior SBC meet appearance and it came as a freshman in 2011. She finished 73rd a year ago with a 5K time of 21:23.3
Saturday's action is the first for the Cajuns since participating in the prestigious Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Ark.
At the Chile Pepper, another freshman stepped up to lead the UL men as Cole Stafford traversed the 10K trek in a time of 32:32.0. It was the second straight meet a freshman was UL's top runner, as Matt Rice placed fourth with a team-best time of 21:25 at the McNeese Cowboy Stampede on Sept. 29.
The Cajuns men finished 21st at the Chile Pepper Festival with a team average time of 33:39.20, besting conference foe Arkansas State (26th - team average 34:24.82) and finishing right behind UALR (15th - team average 32:49.76).
France remained steady all year for the Cajuns men. He was the team's top finisher or runner-up in each time out.
The Chile Pepper Festival marked the first and only 6K of the year for the Cajuns women. Devitt traversed the course in a time of 23:26.8 which placed her 124th out of 341 total runners. It was the fourth time in four events this season that Devitt was the Cajuns top finisher.
In the season's previous 5K events, the Cajuns women turned in nine performances with times below 21:00. Devitt ran 19:18.9 in the Ragin' Cajuns Invite (Sept. 14) and 20:01.0 at the McNeese Cowboy Stampede (Sept. 29).
The SBC championships mark the final team event of the season for Louisiana. Should the Cajuns send individual runners, the 2012 NCAA Division I South Central Regional Championships is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 9 at Agri Park in Fayetteville, Ark. The South Central Region is comprised of teams from a three-state range-Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas-and consists of programs from eight difference conferences-the Big 12, Conference USA, Great West, Southeastern Conference, Southland, Southwestern Athletic Conference, Sun Belt and Western Athletic Conference.