Last Modified: Friday, October 25, 2013 1:16 PM
It’s a tale of two teams for the McNeese State cross country teams as they prepare to host the Southland Conference Championships on Nov. 1 for the first time since 1993.
The Cowgirls appear to be peaking at the right time, coming off a first-place finish at a meet in Clinton, Miss., on Oct. 19. The Cowboys will be out to prove a point after a disappointing showing at pre-nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., the same weekend.
The McNeese women won the Choctaw Open title as senior Amy Talbot finished second and five other Cowgirls also notched top-10 times.
Talbot finished 5 seconds behind Nicholls State’s Tessni Carruthers, who she’ll see again Nov. 1.
“The race the other weekend was really good for me,” Talbot said. “To be able to run at the front with another girl from our conference was great.”
The conference championships are a 6-kilometer race, compared to the 5K run at the Choctaw Open. Talbot said she hopes the extra distance will thin the pack out a little bit and help her make a play for first place.
The Cowboys faced about half of the top 30 teams in the country at the pre-nationals meet, where they finished No. 52 in their first 8K race of the season on the same course the NCAA national meet will be run on Nov. 23.
“After this past weekend, it’s about getting them refocused,” said McNeese coach Brendon Gilroy. “I tell them it’s not the end of the world, because they took it pretty hard.”
Alex Bruce-Littlewood, the Cowboys’ lone senior, said the long distance made the race difficult, but now that the team has it under its belt, they will be better for it.
“The hard work has been done,” he said. “You’re just focusing on getting faster and getting ready to handle the pace and being confident that you can go with whoever is going to be in the lead and just try to work as hard as you can.”
Bruce-Littlewood finished second in last year’s conference meet and the first-place finisher, McNeese’s David Rooney, has since graduated.
The Cowboys won the conference title last season for the first time since 2000.
Talbot, the lone Cowgirls senior, said she hopes to finish in the top five in the conference meet. Talbot suffered a stress fracture last season and has been working to recover since. Gilroy said she’s starting to hit her stride now.
Gilroy is cautiously optimistic about the race.
“If (the Cowgirls) get confident and know the course, who knows what can happen?” Gilroy said. “We definitely have a shot of going top three in both, top five for sure — unless a wheel falls off the wagon. Everyone seems to be doing well, so hopefully we can turn it up a little bit here at home.”