LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- A season of incredible team and individual performances highlighted the 2018 Covenant cross country campaign. Both teams, under the direction of eighth-year head coach Katie Stanford, saw success throughout the year.
The teams combined for seven meet titles and both set program records at the NCAA South/Southeast Region meet at the end of the year. Both squads placed second at the USA South meet, but set program records with a combined 13 All-USA South performers in the process.
Women's cross country senior Lilly Smith put together arguably the best season of any runner in program history. The senior cemented herself as one of the best runners in program history as Smith accumulated multiple major awards, and rewrote many parts of the program's record book.
Smith became the first runner in program history, men or women, to qualify for the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. The senior qualified after placing ninth at the South/Southeast Region meet, also a program record. At the national meet, Smith capped her cross country career by placing 104th overall, out of 279 runners, with a program record time in the 6k of 22:34.8.
For a second consecutive season, Smith was named the USA South Runner of the Year after being a four-time USA South Runner of the Week award winner and holding four of the top five 6k times in the conference.
Each of the top seven 6k times in program history now belong to Smith, and five of those marks she earned this year. Smith also set a program record by winning four individual titles to begin the season. Her two-mile time in the Mountaintop Invitational of 12:42 broke her own record in the distance.
Smith set the pace for the women's team during the year, but as a group the Scots were one of the best in the USA South. The team took home four meet titles to start the season, culminating in wins at the Berea Invitational (Sept. 15) and the Maryville Invitational (Sept. 29). The Scots would place second at the USA South meet, but seven runners placed on All-USA South teams, a program record.
At the South/Southeast Region meet, Covenant finished ninth overall. Smith was the pacesetter in the region meet as she placed ninth, but the Scots had four other runners finish inside the top 100 with strong efforts from Hannah Samuels (54th), Michelann Settle (61st), Maggie Henry (72nd), and Alexandra May (98th).
A pair of freshman were key contributors for the Scots. S.K. Lipperd was a three-time USA South Rookie Runner of the Week as she had four top 10 finishes to start the year. Also a freshman, Henry earned USA South Rookie Runner of the Week once and had five top 10 placements.
The men's squad achieved a program first before even taking the trails in 2018. The Scots were ranked in the USTFCCCA preseason region poll at No. 10, the first region ranking for the program in the NCAA era.
Once the season started, the Scots proved why they belonged as one of the top teams in the region. Covenant won three of its first four meets of the year, capping the stretch with a win at the Maryville Invitational (Sept. 29). The Scots also had wins in the Mountaintop Invitational (Aug. 31) and Huntingdon Invitational (Sept. 8). In those victories, Covenant had individual winners as Nate Collins claimed the Mountaintop Invitational crown, Matthew Tueller in the Huntingdon meet, and Caleb Aikens at Maryville.
The Scots would place second at the USA South meet, highlighted by a program record six runners earning All-USA South honors. Like the women, the men also set a program record at the South/Southeast Region meet as the team placed ninth overall.
A freshman, Collins had a strong rookie season as he won the season-opening meet and tallied five top 10 finishes, including leading the Scots at the USA South meet, and was a two-time USA South Rookie Runner of the Week. Tueller capped his cross country career with four top 10 finishes, while Aikens produced three.
At the region meet, six runners placed inside the top 100, in a field of 239 competitors. Aikens paced the Scots with his 48th place finish, while Jonathan George was 50th, Collins 54th, Tueller 61st, Matt Seitz 73rd, and Micaiah Allison 97th.
Both Covenant teams ran to team and individual titles at the season-opening Mountaintop Invitational on Aug. 31, 2018
NCAA All-South/Southeast Region
USA South Runner of the Year
All-USA South - Women
Lilly Smith - first team
Maggie Henry - second team
Alexandra May - second team
Hannah Samuels - second team
Michelann Settle - second team
Anna Danek - third team
Ashleigh Baker - honorable mention
USA South All-Sportsmanship - Women
USA South All-Sportsmanship - Men
USA South Runner of the Week - Women
Lilly Smith - Sept. 3, Sept. 10, Sept. 24, Oct. 1
USA South Rookie Runner of the Week - Men
Nate Collins - Sept. 3, Sept. 24
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