The Alabama State women’s cross country team will compete in the NCAA South Region tournament on Friday morning at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Fla.
The Lady Hornets qualified by winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference cross-country championships last week and will join 31 other teams attempting to advance to the 2012 NCAA cross-country championships on Nov. 17 in Louisville, Ky.
“It’s an honor for us to be able to go there and compete in that competition,” said Alabama State coach Richie Beene. “We’re typically a ‘sprint’ school. We know the odds are stacked against us. We’re a small school going into a big house to try to improve our legacy of producing distance runners. We’re not a typical ‘distance’ school, but we take athletes who normally don’t get the chance to run distance at a big school and train them and get them at a level of competition where they can go and compete against those other schools.”
This will be the Lady Hornets’ second consecutive trip to NCAA regionals. Last year, ASU advanced to the NCAA South Region tournament at the University of Alabama.
Among the competition for this year’s event will be host school Florida State, coming off its fifth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference championship; Southeastern Conference champion Florida, along with Vanderbilt and Alabama; Sun Belt champion Georgia State; and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Florida A&M. The top three teams from the regional, as well as individual qualifiers, advance to the championships.
“We’ve had several individuals come close, but to get over that hump?” Beene said. “It’s almost like basketball. We get there (to the postseason) but you know how big the odds are stacked against you. But we’re becoming one of the known faces.”
Beene knows his inexperienced athletes have virtually no chance of advancing, but he does offer a little optimism.
“Anything can happen on any given day,” he said. “But it’ll take a little bit of something totally different happening, but there are things that can happen that can get you there.”
Even if the Lady Hornets don’t advance, he believes he is getting closer to having a team — or an individual — that can take that step. That individual may not be on the team right now, but if they continue to read about the Lady Hornets’ postseason exploits, they might want to attend Alabama State to be a part of the program.
“I think the more we get people there (at regionals), it creates a standard for young people that we’re bringing in (as future recruits),” Beene said. “We’ve won the conference two years in a row, we’ve moved on to the NCAA South Regional two years in a row. These girls have run faster than our senior class last year and that’s because the market for recruiting improved for us. My expectation is for this year, the market to be even better for them.”
Competing in this morning’s race are freshmen Artrailia LeSane, Paige Rankin, Kimberly Wedderburn, Santina Williams and Shantia Wilson; sophomore Jerrica Mahone; and junior Soyong Smith.