LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- After one of the most productive seasons in the NCAA era behind them, the Covenant cross country teams have their eyes set towards an even better 2018 season. The Scots begin the fall campaign on Friday when they host the Mountaintop Invitational beginning at 6 p.m. on Lookout Mountain.
Eighth-year head coach Katie Stanford, last season's USA South Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year, has many of her top runners from last year returning this season. Both squads finished runner-up at the USA South Championships in 2017 and then had their highest finishes ever at the NCAA regional meet. Combined with solid recruiting classes on both sides, Stanford's teams are set on competing with some of the best teams not only in the USA South but in the region.
It is a who's who list of returners for both teams. On the men's side, four All-USA South runners return including last year's Rookie of the Year in sophomore Caleb Aikens. Senior Matthew Tueller is coming off a first team All-USA South honor and is the lone senior for the men's team. Sophomores Matt Seitz and Jonathan George also return, as both runners were All-USA South honorable mention a year ago.
Key contributors also returning are sophomores Micaiah Allison, Matthew Broussard, and Leif Le Mahieu. All three had solid 2017 season on the trails, then impressed during the track season in the spring. A freshman class of seven joins the fray as well providing additional speed and depth to the program.
The women's team features a similar trend. Three All-USA South performers from last year return led by the reigning USA South Runner of the Year in senior Lilly Smith. Smith set a program record in the 6k at the 2017 USA South Championships, and then nearly broke the record again in the NCAA regional meet two weeks later. Joining Smith once again is junior Michelann Settle, a first team All-USA South runner last year, and senior Hannah Samuels who earned honorable mention a season ago.
Juniors Anna Danek and Caroline Pepper also return along with sophomores Ashleigh Baker and Sydney Fitch. Four newcomers join the team as freshmen Maggie Henry, S.K. Lipperd, and Nichole Rittgers join sophomore Rachel Cotta.
After a one year hiatus, the Mountaintop Invitational is back. Covenant will host the event on Friday, Aug. 31 starting at 6 p.m. with the women's two-mile race. The men's 5k will follow at 6:30 p.m. The start and finish lines will be at Shadowlands Field.
Covenant is scheduled to be joined in the invitational by USA South members Agnes Scott and Maryville, region foe Sewanee, and NJCAA member Cleveland State Community College. The five team field will be the largest the event has seen since it started in 2012.
Covenant has fared very well in its home meet in the past. The men's and women's teams have won four of the five meets overall.
OTHER KEY DATES:
Covenant will see some other USA South competition early in the season as the teams compete in the Huntingdon Invitational on Sept. 8. The Scots then get to face NCAA Division I teams at the Furman Cross Country Classic on Sept. 15. Trips to the Maryville Invitational (Sept. 29) and the Berry Invitational (Oct. 13) round out the regular season meet schedule.
The USA South Championships are set for Friday, Oct. 26 in Maryville, Tenn. The women's race is slated for 11 a.m., while the men will go at 12 p.m. The NCAA South/Southeast Region meet will be hosted by Berry on Nov. 10.
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