Related: USA South Championship Info
LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- After a record-breaking regular season, the Covenant men's and women's cross country teams carry high expectations into Friday's USA South Championships in Maryville, Tenn.
The women's 6k will begin at 11 a.m., with the men's 8k following at 12 p.m.
Both teams have experienced tremendous success over the season's first five meets. The women have four team titles, while the men have produced three team championships. Each team is hoping to continue that trend into Friday's meets and improve on last year's runner-up finishes.
The Covenant women have been knocking on the door against defending USA South champion, and preseason favorite, Berea all season long. The Scots bested Berea back on Sept. 15, but the Scots finished one spot behind the Mountaineers at the Berry Invitational on Oct. 13. The women have never won the conference title, but have placed second four times in the last five years.
Leading the charge for the women all year has been senior Lilly Smith. Smith has made her case as one of the top runners in the conference, and in program history, during the year as she set a program record with four individual titles and was a four-time USA South Runner of the Week. The senior has three of the top five 6k times in the USA South this season, including a top mark of 23:09 at the Maryville Invitational on Sept. 29.
Only Berea's Abigail Schlenker and Jamie Welch have produced 6k times near what Smith has recorded this season.
On the women's side, it is more than Smith as the Scots have continually put forth a strong top seven. S.K. Lipperd has put together a phenomenal rookie season with four top-10 finishes and three USA South Rookie of the Week awards. Michelann Settle and Maggie Henry each have four top-10 finishes this season, while Hannah Samuels has three. Alexandra May has come on strong with three top-10 placements and Anna Danek and Caroline Pepper have also been key runners for the Scots.
The men will be searching for their first conference title since 2014, but will have to topple defending champion Berea, which is once again the favorite to repeat. Covenant has won two conference titles since joining the league in 2013.
Three runners have paced the men's team during the year as Matthew Tueller, Caleb Aikens, and Nate Collins have gone back and forth. Collins got out of the gate strong with a win in the season-opening Mountaintop Invitational and was a two-time USA South Rookie of the Week. Tueller took home the individual title at the Huntingdon Invitational and Aikens claimed the title at the Maryville Invitational.
Similar to the women's team, the men have also displayed plenty of depth during the year. Matt Seitz has totaled three top-10 finishes, while Matthew Broussard and Micaiah Allison have combined for five top-10 finishes. Jonathan George and Leif Le Mahieu have each produced strong results throughout the year to carry the Scots to three team titles.
Friday will mark the final conference cross country meet for seniors Smith, Samuels, and Tueller. The three runners have been important pieces in each team's successful runs during their careers. All three will look to continue their string of success at the USA South meet as each are two-time All-USA South performers.
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