FLORENCE, S.C. – Both the Francis Marion University men’s and women’s cross country teams will open their 2011 seasons on Friday evening (Sept. 2) when the squads compete in the University of South Carolina Gamecock Invitational Meet.
The women’s 5,000-meter race will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Hilton Field in Fort Jackson. The men's race 5,000-meter race will follow at 7 p.m. Among the schools participating are Benedict College, Charleston Southern University, The Citadel, Coastal Carolina University, Fort Valley State University, Georgia Southern University, USC Aiken, South Carolina State University, USC Beaufort, USC, and FMU.
Admission to the meet is free, and all fans entering Fort Jackson must show a photo ID, proof of car insurance and vehicle registration.
Eleventh-year FMU head coach Mark Bluman welcomes back the top three runners from the 2010 men’s and women’s squads. “This season promises to be both exciting and nerve-racking,” Bluman said. “Exciting as both teams have more depth than last year, and nerve-racking as we are counting on a lot of new faces.”
Returning for the women are sophomore Whitney Wagner (last season’s MVP), senior Samantha Smith, and sophomores LaMeisha Jackson and London Barnhill. Wagner was the team’s top finisher in six of seven meets, while Jackson was the No. 2 runner five events. Wagner’s 20:27 effort at the 2010 Mount Olive College Invitational Meet tied her for the ninth best performance in FMU history, and in the past 10 seasons, only two freshmen have produced faster times.
Smith was an honorable mention Peach Belt Conference All-Academic Team selection in 2010. She was also a PBC All-Academic pick in 2009.
The Patriot men are led by last year’s most valuable player, junior Ian Wallace, as well as senior Ryan Woloszyn, junior Justin Albertson, and sophomore Michael Bigelow.
Wallace recovered from an injury-plagued freshman campaign to lead the Patriots in all seven meets last fall. He posted his personal-best time for 8,000-meters (28:18) at the 2010 PBC Championship Meet. Albertson was the squad’s No. 2 finisher in six of the events.
“Both Whitney and Samantha put in a great summer of training and should compile personal-best times from their first day of competition and throughout the season,” said Bluman. “On the men’s side, Ian and Ryan have also had a great summer of training. We have great expectations for them and look for them to reach those heights.
“As for new faces, all four of the freshmen on the men’s team have been solid throughout the first two weeks of practice. They have bonded quickly and look forward to carrying the load for the next four years. In particular, Justin Koehn (Norwalk, Ohio) and Cody McDonald (Martinsburg, W.Va.) could challenge to be among our top three finishers this fall.”
Also joining the men’s program are Braylin Bloise (Taylors, S.C.), Justin Carter (Piedmont, S.C.), and Alex McIntosh (Columbia, S.C.).
“Diana Levy (Hackettstown, N.J.) and Allyson Franklin (Goose Creek, S.C.), two of the new faces on the women’s side, have had a solid camp as well and will likely both run in the top five.”
The Patriot women were named to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s (USTFCCCA) list of All-Academic Teams following the 2010 season, the second consecutive year FMU has garnered this honor.
Francis Marion will compete in seven meets this fall, including the Peach Belt Championships, Oct. 22 in Aiken. Other regular-season events include a meet at UNC Wilmington on Sept. 9, the Bridgestone-Pacer Invitational on Sept. 17 in Aiken, the Charlotte Invitational on Sept. 30, and a meet at Wingate University on Oct. 13.