FLORENCE, SC - The Francis Marion University men's and women's cross country teams will open their 2009 schedules on Saturday morning (Sept. 5) when the Patriots compete in the UNC Pembroke Invitational Meet at Luther Britt Park in Lumberton, N.C.
The 8,000-meter men’s race will begin at 9 a.m., followed by the 6,000-meter women’s race.
FMU head coach Mark Bluman welcomes back four runners on both the men’s and women’s teams. In the Peach Belt Conference preseason coaches’ poll, the Patriot men were tabbed to finish fifth, while the women were picked to place 10th.
The men are led by senior Hillary Kiprop, last season’s PBC Runner of the Year. The native of Kenya was the team’s top finisher in all seven meets last fall, including two wins. He was twice named the PBC Runner of the Week and his 10th-place showing at the NCAA Regional Championships was the highest individual finish in FMU’s history as a Division II member.
Juniors Ben Miller, Jerry Roth, and Bryson Robinson also return for the Patriots. Miller was the Patriots’ second finisher in two meets last fall, while Roth followed Kiprop among the FMU runners at the NCAA Regional Meet.
Newcomers for the 2009 campaign include freshmen Justin Albertson (Aiken, SC) and Ian Wallace (Fort Mill, SC) and sophomore Justin Trigg (Tega Cay, SC).
The FMU women must replace the loss of three-time All-Conference runner Kelly May who led the Patriots in every meet last fall.
Returnees include seniors Amanda Doyle, Holly Todd, and Amanda Booker, as well as sophomore Samantha Smith. Doyle was the second FMU finisher (behind May) in six of seven meets in 2008, while Smith recorded four third-place team finishes.
Two local-area freshmen join the team for 2009: Sierra Young of Conway High School and Madeline Reed of South Florence High School.
The 2009 FMU slate includes five regular-season meets, the Peach Belt championships, Oct. 24 in Lumberton and hosted by UNCP, and the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Meet, Nov. 7 in Wingate, N.C. Following Saturday’s meet, the Patriots will run at the Pre-Regional Meet in Wingate on Sept. 12, at the Coastal Carolina University Invitational on Sept. 18, at the PC Blue Hose Invitational on Oct. 2, and at the South Carolina Cross Country Championships on Oct. 10 in Greenville.