ETSU cross country set to begin 2007 campaign
Friday, September 7, 2007

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 7, 2007) - Another year is upon us and the ETSU men's and women's cross county program is set to open its 2007 schedule this weekend, as the men travel to Blacksburg, Va., while the women compete at the Irish Brigade Commemorative 5K in nearby Elizabethton.


Men's Preview

Head coach David Walker's men kicks things off Saturday morning at the Virginia Tech Invitational, which acts as a little tune up before next weekends Winthrop/Asics Invitational. The course in Blacksburg consists of only a four-mile run, while the Rock Hill terrain is schedule to be an 8,000-meter event. The men close out the month of September with a trip to Louisville, Ky., where they compete in the 6th Annual Great Louisville Sports Commission Cross Country Classic on Sept. 29.


After a rigorous start to the season the Bucs will take the first weekend of October off, before traveling to an old SoCon stopping ground on Saturday, Oct. 13, when ETSU partakes in the Furman Invitational. Following another off week, ETSU will put everything on the line as they look to end Belmont's five-year run as Atlantic Sun Champions during the last weekend in October. The conference champion will be crowned on Oct. 27 in Nashville.


"If our top four guys can stay healthy during the entire season, we will be able to battle Belmont and Kennesaw for the top spot at the conference championships," said Walker. "Any of our returning runners can run at the number one slot, so we have a lot of depth and competition there."


One of the top runners includes junior Michael Deren (Blasdell, N.Y.), last season's all-conference award winner, and the Buccaneer leader. Deren led ETSU across the finish line in all six meets he ran last season. Joining Deren in the front of the pack consists of senior Jordan Ladd (Lyn, Ontario), junior Jeff Crane (Taylors, S.C.) and sophomore Kenneth Rotich (Nairobi, Kenya).


"Deren has the rights to the number slot based on his results from last season, but he needs to continue to improve, as everyone is coming after him for that top spot," added Walker. "Crane, Ladd, and Rotich all have the tools and potential to run at the number one position as well."


The trio of J Penny (Telford, Tenn.), Josh Jaynes (Elizabethton, Tenn.) and Manny Gonzalez (Bryan, Ohio) will be battling for the number five position. Currently the slot is held by Penny, who claimed Atlantic Sun All-Freshman honors last season, and has the most running experience among the three. However, Gonzalez has been impressive in early in preseason practices, which is good news for the Bucs as they could use the added depth to their roster. 


Women's Preview

The 2007 ETSU women's cross country program will be led by a youth movement, as its roster contains a senior, three sophomores, and three freshmen. For the second straight season head coach Michelle Byrne's squad will be led by the Scottish sensation Vicki Currie (Dumfries, Scotland). The sophomore runner enjoyed a solid first season with the Bucs, and looks to build off those successes this year.


"Currie has trained well this summer and will lead the Bucs up front," said Byrne. "She is more confident this season and has settled in nicely after adjusting as a freshman last season. She enters the year focused and has all the talent to become an all-conference runner."


The women kick things open with the Irish Brigade Commemorative 5K this Sunday in nearby Elizabethton. Following the Irish Brigade, ETSU will travel to the UT Invitational in Maryville, Tenn. on Oct. 14, and the Bucs close out the rest of the schedule with the same destinations the men make.


Although the ETSU women were selected ninth in the A-Sun Preseason Coaches Poll, Byrne is counting on their hard work, enthusiasm and learning experiences to pay off when the conference championship rolls around at the end of October.


"Our girls have been working hard and they are all excited for the season to begin," commented Byrne. "They are a fun group to be around and are full of positive energy. We hope that can carry over later in the season when we need it most."


Sophomore Christin Zink (Herndon, Va.) and freshmen twins Terra and Tesha Haggard (Morristown, Tenn.) will also provide an attack and try to keep pace with Currie in the front. Zink competed in five meets last season, and having the year of experience under her belt, she hopes that pays off during her second season at ETSU. The Haggard twins arrive to the Bucs' program after leading Morristown-Hamblen West to back-to-back cross country titles in 2005 and 2006.


Rounding out the group of runners on coach Byrne's squad include freshman Rochelle Crook (Cookeville, Tenn.), as well as a combo of Steve Brooks' tennis girls in Elena Volobueva (Barcelona, Spain) and Yevgeniya Stupak (Kyiv, Ukraine).


The men's 6K race beings at 9 a.m. Saturday in Blacksburg, while the women's race starts at 3 p.m. Sunday. Fans make sure to visit for all of your up to date cross country information all season long.