Oct. 30, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas - On the heels of their strongest performances of the season, the UT Arlington's men's and women's cross country teams are now set to compete in their inaugural Sun Belt Conference Championships on Saturday. Both highly regarded teams are expected to be positioned near the top of the leaderboards.
For the Mavericks, it will be the second trip to the state of Alabama in a two-week span, as the league meet will be contested at Trojan Oaks in Troy, Ala. The women will run a 5k beginning at 10 a.m. (CT), while the men will run one hour later. Live results will be available though Delta Timing.
"We are very excited about returning to Alabama this weekend," head coach John Sauerhagesaid. "The way our teams are running right now, we are confident that we can compete for conference championships, which is our goal at the start of every season."
Despite being new to the league, the men were voted the preseason SBC favorites by the league's coaches, and solidified their standing with their most recent performance. UTA's runner-up showing at the Crimson Classic on Oct. 18 was arguably the best regular-season result in school history and vaulted the team to its highest regional ranking ever (3rd in the South Central).
Depth has been key on the men's side, as three different runners have paced the squad through the first four meets of the year. Four team members--Virgilio Martinez, Craig Lautenslager, Ryan Tilotta and Emil Blomberg--earned all-league mention in the Western Athletic Conference in 2012, while newcomer Eric Ojedawas named the Sun Belt's Runner of the Week last week.
"We have to be ready to run our best on the men's side," Sauerhage said. "There will be several strong teams to contend with and we hope that our hard work will pay off."
A win would be special for the Mavs, as the men's program has never won back-to-back league titles in cross country. UALR is also ranked in the South Central Region (No. 13).
Meanwhile, the women were picked to place third at the meet prior to the season and have also enjoyed a strong fall. The squad has been listed among the top 15 in the South Central Regional Rankings since the first week of the season and took fifth at the Crimson Classic with a roster that contains no seniors. Gabriela Alfonzo and Hannah Nilsson have each paced the team twice through four meets this year.
"It's going to take a total team effort," Sauerhage said. "It's going to be a very close meet, as there are probably three or four very talented teams that could come out on top."
The Maverick women have won four conference titles in school history, but have not lifted the first-place trophy since 2001. In addition to UTA, the other regionally-ranked women's squads in the Sun Belt include: Arkansas State (No. 10 in South Central), Georgia State (No. 14 in South) and Texas State (No. 15 in South Central).
"We are very happy to be in the Sun Belt Conference and to have a league to call home where we can develop friendships and rivalries," Sauerhage said. "We have the utmost respect for all the teams in the league and look forward to competing on Saturday."
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