Nov. 1, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The University of Louisville cross country teams are among 21 squads battling to capture the American Athletic Conference's first postseason title this weekend.
The AAC Championships, which will be held on Saturday at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn., start with the men's 8K at 11 a.m. The women's 6K follows at 11:50 a.m. Admission is free, and the conference will be streaming the event as well as the awards ceremony free on its website.
"We're certainly looking forward to the first American Athletic Conference Championships," head coach Dale Cowper said. "We think it's going to be a great experience for our students. It's going to be fun to see if the crews are ready to take the next step, which we believe they are. As long as we go in and do that, it should be a real fun weekend."
On the men's side, the Cardinals are one of eight teams competing for the first team title of the day. Louisville, the only AAC squad in the USTFCCCA's regional rankings, has placed in the top five in three of its four meets this year, including a victory in the Greater Louisville Classic.
"The expectations are to go in and contend for titles on both the men's and women's sides," assistant coach Joe Walker said. "With one year in the AAC, we want to make the most of it. We're probably the favorite on the men's side, and those guys just need to do what they've been doing all year long. If they run up to their capability, we should win the meet."
Redshirt junior Tyler Byrne, a two-time conference athlete of the week, has led the team this season. The Georgetown, Ind., native has placed in the top 20 in each meet this season, including a strong 18th-place showing at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational. Sophomore Ernest Kibet, who earned conference honors earlier in the year, also has been a major contributor. He has been in the top five twice in three meets.
The Cardinals also are relying on seniors Mattias Wolter and Stacey, each of whom has been in the team's top five this season.
"I think Tyler and Ernest want to run at a controlled effort, but also really gap the field late and make sure they don't leave anyone in the race who shouldn't be there," Walker added. "We expect those guys to be 1-2; we don't really care about the order. The rest of our group has to run together and put themselves in that top eight or top 10."
Louisville's women's team, which has finished in the top five on three occasions and ranks eighth in the regional poll, will be lining up against nine other squads for the conference crown. The Cardinals have had three different No. 1 runners this season, with junior Michelle Molodynia leading the way twice, and freshmen Benadate Cheruiyot and Agnes Chepchumba each finishing first on the team once.
Adair Gennocro is another bright spot in the Cardinals' freshman class. The St. Marys, Pa., native, who was a high school cross country state champion, put together consecutive top-10 performances to open the season and was the team's No. 2 finisher at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational.
Racing as a pack has been one of the Cardinals' strong suits this season, as the first and fifth scoring runners have finished within less than 35 seconds three times this season.
"The women, on paper, are in a battle with two teams that are really similar in Connecticut and SMU," Walker added. "Out of that women's group, you can have a different frontrunner, depending on the day. We just really want to run as a pack and see who can close. I expect Agnes and Benadate compete well, and see a freshman up there as well."
For the latest information on Louisville cross country and track and field, log on to GoCards.com, or, for up-to-the-minute updates, follow the team's Twitter account at www.twitter.com/uofltrackxc or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/uofltrackxc.