UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND, Va. - The Richmond men's and women's cross country teams head for Concord, N.C., on Friday looking to defend their Atlantic 10 Championship titles. Saturday's conference meet begins at 10 a.m. with the men's 8k with the women's 5k to follow at 10:45 a.m.
This year's A-10 meet will be hosted by Charlotte at Frank Liske Park in Concord, N.C. The course will be raced on the grounds of the 283-acre park located in suburban Charlotte. The 2011 Championships mark the 34th annual conference men's meet and the 23rd annual racing of the women's championship. Richmond has competed in the event every year since joining the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2001.
After winning their first A-10 title in program history a year ago, the Spider men return to the conference meet featuring a well-balanced attack. Juniors Jason Skipper (Pittsford, N.Y./Pittsford Mendon) and Chris York (White Post, Va./Clarke County) finished 38th and 40th, respectively, at last year's championship and have stepped up to lead the Spiders this season following the departure of several veteran standouts. York turned in two top-three finishes to open the season, paced the Spiders in a stacked field at Lehigh's Paul Short Run and finished just outside the top 25 at Virginia's Panorama Farms Invite. Skipper commenced the campaign with a pair of second-place finishes and was the team's second finisher at the Paul Short.
Junior Conor Phelan (Pittsford, N.Y./Pittsford Sutherland) looks to be a factor at this weekend's meet as well. Phelan has finished among the Spider top four in all four races this fall, including top-10 showings at the Spider Alumni Open and the William and Mary Invite.
A trio of freshman have also come onto the scene as forces for the Spider side this fall. Freshman Andrew Valenski (Massapequa, N.Y./Massapequa) was the third Spider harrier to cross the line at the Paul Short Run and second at the Panorama Farms. Billy Fayette (Clarendon Hills, Ill./Hinsdale) and Matthew Groff (Landisville, Pa./Hempfield) have also scored in each of the races they have run this season.
STEVE TAYLOR ON THE SPIDER MEN
"As the defending champions, we recognize what that means. Our athletes have put in the work, and based on their training we know what they are capable of and how they can win. Now it's time for them to pull that performance out of themselves on Saturday morning. We have yet to have a complete race as a team this season. We've had good points in practically every meet, but a total team efforts is what it takes to win within this conference. Our training has been set up to bring that team race together at the A-10 Championships. They have to make it happen."
Coming off two A-10 titles in three years and the departure of several senior standouts, the Spider women will be led by sophomore Jill Prentice (Skillman, N.J./Montgomery), who has paced the squad in each of the three races she has run this season, including a top finish at the William and Mary Invite and a top-10 showing at Panorama Farms. Prentice's 12th-place finish at last year's championship is the highest of any returning Spider. Classmate Alli Mannon (Lititz, Pa./Warwick) finished just outside the top 20 at the conference meet a year ago.
Junior Stephanie Paradis (Leesburg, Va./Stone Bridge) has been the team's first or second finisher in all four races this fall, including a top showing at the Spider Alumni Open and a top-three finish at the W&M Invite. Sophomores Roxanne Henningson (Saratoga Springs, N.Y./Greenwich) and Amanda Lineberry (Mechanicsville, Va./Lee Davis) also add depth to the Spider lineup. Henningson has finished among the squad's top three in every race this season, while Lineberry has followed suit in the top five.
After missing the team's opening pair of races to prepare for the Junior World Mountain Running Championship, freshman Clare Moretz (Madison, Va./Madison) has come on strong in the latter half of the season. The rookie was the fourth Spider to cross the line at Lehigh's Paul Short Run and finished fifth on the team at the Panorama Farms.
LORI TAYLOR ON THE SPIDER WOMEN
"It's an exciting time as we move into the Atlantic 10 Conference Championships this weekend. Our women look forward to competing and defending the title they won last year. There are four schools that we feel are evenly matched and capable of winning the title. It's going to be a competitive meet."
A meet recap and complete results will be made available on RichmondSpiders.com on Saturday. For more immediate results, please visit the A-10 Championship Central page. Results and additional in-depth coverage can also be found on Coach Taylor's blog or by following him on Twitter.