By Lancaster Brown
BUENA VISTA, Va.—The Southern Virginia University cross country teams will compete at the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship meet on Friday hosted by SUNY-ESF (Environmental Science and Forestry) in Syracuse, N.Y.
The women's 6k race will take place at 11 a.m., while the men's 8k occurs shortly after at noon.
Down in numbers in recent weeks due to injuries, the women's squad will have a complete roster with five runners slated to compete as the Knights seek a 12th national title in program history. Senior Kera Macfarlane-Nielson, who placed fourth individually at last year's USCAA meet, will be leading the team. As the top team runner for the four prior meets she competed in this season, she has earned a season-best 6k time of 24:41.3.
Consistently the team's second finisher this season, freshman Rebecca Lords has logged a season-best 6k of 25:34.3, while junior Katelyn Tonini has run a season-best 31:14.9 as a No. 3 runner. Freshmen Hayden Larman and Sadie Taylor will also compete for the team.
"I expect that Kera and Rebecca will once again lead the women and do really well at this meet ," said Southern Virginia head coach Logan Davis. "If they run to their potential they can definitely receive USCAA All-America honors at this race."
The men will be led by junior Patrick Gonzalez, who finished third individually at last year's championship. The Riverside, Calif., native has led the team in every meet he has competed in this season and earned a season-best 8k time of 26:58.30.
Freshman Michael Ward has been the Knights' second leading runner, posting a season-best 27:12.8 . Junior Kevin Prince owns a season-best 8k time of 27:54.8 and has consistently been Southern Virginia's No. 3 runner.
"On the men's side, we have a goal of being a top three team with two or three All-Americans," Davis said. "Patrick is running significantly faster this year than he was heading into last year's race. Our top three guys are running faster than Patrick was at that point. If all goes according to plan and our runners execute, both of the teams should do very well on Friday."