Written by Chris Pendleton
BUENA VISTA, Va.—As the Southern Virginia University women's cross country team prepares for its 15th season as an intercollegiate program, second-year Head Coach Logan Davis described his 2012 squad with one adjective:
According to Davis, the 2012 version of Southern Virginia women's cross country features seven returners, including four of his top five runners from last year's team that captured the 2011 USCAA Women's Cross Country National Championship in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"We're returning our top two finishers from last year's national championship meet in Tori Faulkner and Leah Huber," explained Davis. "We also have Kera Macfarlane-Neilson and Shelbi Prince back, who both consistently finished in our top five last season."
Faulkner (Mesa, Ariz.) was runner-up at last year's national championship meet completing her race on the snow-covered 6K course in 25:23.17—less than seven seconds behind the national champion's pace. Her second-place finish at nationals capped a stellar freshman campaign for Faulkner, who earned All-American honors after coming in as Southern Virginia's top finisher in all seven of her races a season ago.
Faulkner was joined on the USCAA All-American team by fellow first-year Huber who placed seventh overall at nationals. Huber was followed into the chute by three more Knights—then-sophomore Macfarlane-Nielson (Yorktown, Va.), then-freshman Tayla Alfrey (Auburn, Wash.) and then-freshman Prince (Mexico, Mo.)—who finished eighth, ninth and tenth respectively helping Southern Virginia to a dominant 18-point victory.
"We're bringing back four runners who finished in the top ten at last year's national championship," said Davis. "I think its safe to say we are the deepest team in the USCAA entering this season."
In addition to his solid core of returners, Davis was especially excited about incoming freshman Jacey Moore (Mesa, Ariz.), who comes to Southern Virginia from Mountain View High School, where she ran with Faulkner two years ago when she was still a high school junior and Faulkner was a senior.
"Jacey [Moore] will compete for our top spot this season," said Davis. "Tori [Faulkner] was outstanding for us last year leading our team in every race she ran. I think she'll be even better this year because she'll be challenged by Jacey and Leah [Huber] in every practice and every meet."
"Elle [Dryden] and Ashley [Birch] both add to our depth," Davis said. "They'll make us very competitive one through ten."
Davis would not go so far as to guarantee another national championship explaining that, despite his success as a first-year head coach, he understands anything can happen over the course of a season.
"It will take hard work and dedication to repeat this year, as well as some good fortune," said Davis. "But we're really excited based on our preseason workouts and we can't wait to see where this team can go. We feel that some of our runners can really make a breakthrough and go to another level."
But if the past is any indicator of the future, Southern Virginia has a great shot at another women's cross country title in 2012. Since Southern Virginia began athletics in 1997, women's cross country has been the university's most accomplished sport claiming ten national titles, including seven straight from 2001-07.
Davis became head coach of women's cross country in 2011 following a three-year title drought for the Knights—the longest in the program's 15-year history—and returned the Knights to the top of the podium in his first season.
"A national championship is the goal for this program every season," said Davis. "Whether we get there or not is yet to be seen, but we are really looking forward to the journey ahead."