– The North Georgia College & State University cross
country teams are set to take the stage this Saturday at Luther
Britt Park in Lumberton, North Carolina, taking on the
league’s best at the 19th annual Peach Belt Conference
The championship is the first of the PBC-GEICO Championship Series and brings together the largest field for a cross country championship the PBC has had since 2003. The women’s 6k race will begin at 8:30 a.m. while the men will run an 8k at 9:15 a.m. Admission to the races is free.
The women’s field will feature 11 teams for the first time since 2003 as Flagler and Montevallo compete for their first conference championships since joining the league this year. The women’s race was changed from a 5k to a 6k run to mirror the length of the NCAA regional race in two weeks. The challenge for all teams competing will be to dethrone Columbus State University, who are poised to win their fifth straight conference title.
The Lady Saints have finished in the top-10 in all five races this season, having finished a season-high fourth place at the University of Georgia Invitational, while taking fifth place at Jacksonville State University on two different occasions. North Georgia will look to sophomore Katie Vance to earn Peach Belt All-Conference honors for a second straight season, while Samantha Silvers holds the fastest time on the team this season, running a 20:26 to take 21st place at the Jacksonville State Foothills Invitational. Silvers is one of a handful of candidates expected to compete for Freshman of the Year honors in the event.
On the men’s side, Columbus State is once again the team to beat as they look to take home their fourth straight PBC title. The Cougars may be in a position to do just that with a very strong team, which includes David Marley, who won the 2008 PBC Championship race. But all eyes will be on newcomer Meshack Koyiaki. The Kenyan has won all three races he has begun this season, including the Berry and Mercer Invitationals. Koyiaki holds three of the top four fastest 8k times run this year, including the top two.
The Saints have finished in the top 10 in four of the five events they have competed in this season, taking a season-high fifth place at the Jacksonville State Strut’s Season Opener, and the University of Georgia Invitational. North Georgia will be looking to sophomore sensation Tyler Mattix who has led the Saints in every race this season, finishing a season-best 24th place at the Jacksonville State Foothills Invitational with a time of 27:18. The Snellville, Ga., native is eying to be the Saints first All-Conference performer since 2006.
First year head coach Tom Williams will lead both cross country teams into the Peach Belt Conference Championships, looking to improve on a fourth place finish for the men, and a third place finish for the women last season. In North Georgia’s four years in the PBC, both teams have finished as high as third in the league championship race.