MARS HILL, N.C. - The Mars Hill men's and women's cross country teams will compete at the South Atlantic Conference Championship meet on Saturday. The meet will be held at the Clemson Sandhill Research & Education Center in Columbia, South Carolina and hosted by Newberry College.
The men's race is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., while the women's race will start at 10:15 a.m. Last year in Pineville, Kentucky, Queens University of Charlotte captured its first SAC Men's Cross Country championship while the Wingate women won for the second time in three years. The Mars Hill men placed 2nd while the Lion women were eighth at last year's championship meet for head coach Mike Owens.
Senior Nathan Jones has been the top finisher for the Lions throughout the course of the season, including a first-place finish at the Asheville Cross Country Challenge and a third-place finish at the Queens Twilight Meet. During the meet at Queens Meet Jones set the all-time SAC record in the 8k race with a 24:07.6. Last year Jones captured fourth place in the championships with a time of 25:30.60.
Junior Brandon Beard has finished second on the team behind Jones three different times this year. Beard's 16th place finish at the Asheville Cross Country Challenge was his best of the season and he looks to improve on the 26:49.16 time he ran that day.
The Lions will enter the weekend looking to reclaim their spot atop the conference after Queens stripped them of that title last year. However, Mars Hill gained revenge in the postseason, placing first among SAC institutions at the Southeast Region meet and turning in a 25th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, seven spots ahead of Queens, to finish tops among teams from the region.
Junior Kaleigh Jackson will look to anchor the Lions just as she has all season. Jackson, an Asheboro, N.C. native, has been the top finisher for the Blue and Gold in all five meets this year, including a 12th place finish at the Asheville Cross Country Challenge.
Rachel Strickland will attempt to continue her impressive fall, trying to build off her personal-best 25:29 in the 6k set at the Montevallo Pre-Region Meet. The time was a PR of more than two minutes for Strickland.
Andrea Wolfrey, Sydney Britt, and Kali Clemmer have all improved week-to-week for the Lions and will look to help best the eighth-place finish a year ago.