MOREHEAD – The Morehead State University men’s and women’s cross country teams will open the 2013 season Saturday at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Invitational.
The women’s 5K race is set to begin at 9:40 p.m., while the men’s four-mile event is scheduled for 10:20 p.m. FloTrack.org is providing live coverage of the event. Both teams return eight runners.
Head Coach Brent Ericksen enters his third season leading both programs and is excited about the prospects of the year.
“We have 17 runners on the women’s team, including nine freshmen, so we have some depth,” he said. “Our freshmen have really infused us with talent, so it will be fun to see them make a real impact. Our top three on the men’s side look really good, but we need our fourth, fifth and sixth runners - whoever may win the battles for those spots - to step up and make the lineup tighter.
According to Ericksen, seniors Zachariah Elliott and Chase Ratliff, as well as junior Gary Monroe, are expected to lead the pack.
Elliott, who ran the fourth fastest 8K time in program history last season, earned Second-Team All-OVC honors and led the squad in five events. Ratliff recorded the eighth-best 8K time in school history last year at the OVC Championships. Monroe was tabbed Second-Team All-Conference after covering the OVC Championship course in the fifth-best 8K time in MSU history.
Sophomore Lauren Tarovisky is expected to push to be the front-runner this year, per Ericksen’s observations. She clocked the 10th fastest 5K time in MSU history at the OVC Championship. Sophomore Erica Parks turned in the 10th-best 6K time last year at the NCAA Southeast Regional. Junior Krystal Williams recorded a sub-19 time at the OVC Championships, and the team has just one senior this year in Parker Winters.
“I think we have a lot of women who can run sub 20-minute times,” Ericksen said. “When I first took over the program, no one could even run less than 20 minutes, and now we have about 15 or 16 runners who are capable of that. The next step will be for those runners to achieve 17-minute times and even better.”
The Memphis Twilight will feature several of the region’s top teams, including Memphis, Mississippi, Mississippi State and Arkansas State.
“There won’t be quite as many top teams there this year as there were last season,” Ericksen added. “But, it should still be a good measuring stick for where we need to be. It should also be fun to run under the lights on a really quality course.”
Morehead State will host the OVC Championship races this year on Nov. 2 at Eagle Trace Golf Course.