Cross Country Back In Action At Chile Pepper Festival
North Texas Will Be Competing With 65 Teams At Arkansas
Chile Pepper Festival central
DENTON – The North Texas men’s and women’s cross country teams will venture to the 28th edition of the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival hosted by Arkansas Saturday, Oct. 1 starting at 9:45 a.m.
65 programs (a meet record) have entered in the 2016 Chile Pepper Festival. 17 states will be represented in the collegiate division: Arkansas – 13, Texas – 11, Missouri – 10, Kansas – 6, Iowa – 5, Oklahoma – 5, Colorado – 2, Florida – 2, Louisiana – 2, Nevada – 2, Alabama – 1, California – 1, Massachusetts – 1, New Mexico – 1, Pennsylvania – 1, South Dakota – 1 and Tennessee – 1.
The men’s 8k race will start at 9:45 a.m. followed by the women’s 5k meet at 10:20 a.m. The Awards ceremony will begin at 11:10 a.m. after both races are completed.
I'm excited to see how the team races in our packs in a much larger field,” cross country coach Stefanie Slekis said. “So far our competitions have had less than 100 participants in each race and at the Chile Pepper Festival there will be between 300 to 400 participants in each race. I'll be looking for our packs to get out where they need to be, find each other in the larger field, and work together to reach their individual goal places so that we can achieve a low team score and reach our ultimate goal to finish in the top three as a team.”
The last time North Texas competed at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival the men’s team finished third in 2014 and the women’s squad came in eighth. On the men’s side, eight teams come into the meet regionally ranked in Central Arkansas (15th South Central), Lafayette (13th South Central), Texas Tech (12th Mountain), Missouri (11th Midwest), Wichita State (10th Midwest), Villanova (fourth Mid-Atlantic) and Arkansas (first South Central, fifth nationally).
The Mean Green are seventh in the South Central region and will have a great chance to move up depending on their finish at the Chile Pepper Festival. Eight runners will be making the trip in redshirt freshman Alex Cleveland, senior James Coleman, sophomore Ethan Davis, freshman Tim Jones, junior Zach Kirkland, junior Mike Lowe, sophomore Kyle Maloney, and freshman Hayden Murphy.
“Our men were third here in 2014 and that gave us great momentum for our best championship season so we are looking to do the same this weekend,” Slekis said. “This meet is a great opportunity to race against the top team in our region, the University of Arkansas. If you can race with the top three individuals from Arkansas' team you have a strong chance of placing high enough at the South Central Region to qualify for the NCAA Championship individually.”
The women’s team enters the meet with confidence after winning the Ken Garland invitational two weeks ago. North Texas is ranked ninth in the South Central region and will go up against five other regionally ranked teams in Texas Tech (14th Mountain), TCU (10th South Central), Wichita State (eighth Midwest), Missouri (sixth Midwest), and Arkansas (first South Central, 10th nationally).
Sophomore Susannah Lynch, coming off a first-place finish at the Ken Garland invitational, hopes to continue her stellar season this weekend. Also competed will be sophomore Cassidy Adams, freshman Kacie Jo Corbin, senior Susie Kemper, senior Kylee Kittrell, sophomore Kellee McCann, junior Christina Moralez, sophomore Baylee Nelson, freshman Tori Valka, junior Brittany White, and freshman Jennifer White.
“The women have only placed as high as eighth at the Chile Pepper Festival since I have been at North Texas, but we have the goal of being at least in the top five and ultimately the goal is for a top three finish,” Slekis said. “After winning the home meet, the women have the confidence that they can go and compete against teams with a higher regional rank than them. They will have the opportunity to prove themselves both against regionally ranked South Central teams, but also teams ranked in the Mountain and Midwest Region.”
The Mean Green will get the opportunity to test out the course that will be hosting the NCAA South Central regionals Nov. 11.
“It is also important for our student-athletes to gain experience on this course and prove to themselves and each other that they can race well here since we will return on November 11th for the South Central Region Championship,” Slekis added. “This is a course we have raced well on in the past and our strength oriented training aligns well with the rolling hills on this course.”