Host Golden Knights Compete at C-USA Cross Country Championship Saturday

Oct. 28, 2005

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ORLANDO - The UCF cross country teams face some of the top schools in the country at the 2005 Conference USA Championships at DISNEY'S WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS® Complex on Oct. 29. The men's race begins at 9 a.m. with the women's event following at 9:45 a.m.

The Golden Knights, who serve as hosts for the meet, are keeping their goals realistic but are ready to make their presence known in the their first-year competition in C-USA.

POLLING PLACE... UCF is one of five men's squads ranked in their respective U.S. Cross Country Coaches' Association (USCCCA) regional poll. The Golden Knights have been among the South Region's top 15 teams since making an impressive debut at the Gator Invitational on Sept. 9 and are currently ranked 14th.

Heavily favored UTEP sits at 10th in the nation according to Mondos and third in the Mountain Region. In the South-Central Region, Rice is fourth and Houston is 14th, while Tulsa is 10th in the Midwest Region.

The UCF women are not ranked, but Rice, SMU, UAB and Tulsa are all among the top 10 teams in their respective Women's Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches' Association (WICCCA) regional polls.

BELIEVE IN MAGIC... Both UCF squads are hoping that magic can happen twice in one season. The Golden Knights ran well on the same DISNEY'S WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS® Complex course at the 11th Annual Disney Classic on Oct. 8 as the men took third place in a field of 30 teams and the women finished fourth of 33 schools.

UCF is familiar with DISNEY'S WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS® Complex facility having participated in all of the Disney Classics since the event's inception 11 years ago.

MULL-ING IT OVER... Freshman Chris Mullaney has been impressive in his first season as a Golden Knight. The Neptune Beach native has run at the top of UCF's lineup all season and twice earned Conference USA Male Athlete of the Week honors. He debuted with a top 20 finish at the Gator Invitational with a time of 25:36.05 then broke the school record in the 8K at 25:15 at the Sean Earle Lakefront Invitational less than a month later.

On Oct. 8, Mullaney won the Disney Classic on the same DISNEY'S WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS® Complex course that the Conference USA Championship will follow.

Mullaney owns four of C-USA's top times in the 8K this year.

EASY AS 1-2-3... It has been easy to predict who UCF's top three men's finishers have been in each meet thus far this season. In addition to Chris Mullaney at No. 1, juniors Brent and Ryan White have consistently run at the top of the Golden Knights' lineup throughout the fall. Brent was No. 2 at the Gator and FSU Invitationals as well as at the Disney Classic, while Ryan was No. 2 at the Lakefront and Stetson Invites.

"This is one of our fastest men's squads to date," said UCF head coach Marcia Mansur-Wentworth. "They've been working hard in practice and have continued to run well on race day."

EVERYONE IN THEIR PLACE... While the UCF men's team has been consistent, the women's finishes have been more difficult to predict with different athletes stepping up on a week-to-week basis. After starting the season as the squad's No. 1 in the first two meets, senior Andrea Morrow continues to be among the top three runners for the Black & Gold.

Freshman Jamie Rzepecki, who finished as UCF's top runner at the Lakefront Invitational, has been in scoring position in all five outings. Also sophomore Allison Palmer has continued to run in one of the top three spots, including a No. 1 finish at both the Disney Classic and the Stetson Invitational.

"We've had some impressive individual performances this season," said Mansur-Wentworth. "We're just looking for everything to come together at the right time."

FEEL THE BURN... A natural middle distance runner who starred on Brooklyn's Bishop Loughlin track team, freshman Shantile Blackburn has made an amazing transition into cross country. The New York native made her distance debut with a time of 19:55.92 to finish in the top 60 at the Gator Invitational then made a mark as UCF's No. 2 runner at the Disney Classic in early October.

IMPRESSIVE DEBUT... Mansur-Wentworth called it "the best team race that our program has run to date" when each athlete in UCF's eight-man lineup finished the 8K in under 27 minutes at the Gator Invitational. Chris Mullaney led the way with his time of 25:36.05, while his classmate Daniel Conn capped off the feat when he finished 44th at 26:48.46. All efforts posted by the Golden Knights were personal bests at the time.

IN TRANSLATION... Andrea Morrow, one of two senior women in UCF's championship lineup, is hoping that her previous success on the track will translate to the grass. A two-time NCAA Regional qualifier and school recordholder in the steeplechase, Morrow is poised to make the jump in her final cross country season. She was the squad's No. 1 runner in the first two meets of the season and posted a personal best time of 18:17.42 at the FSU Invitational, which ranks her among the conference's top 20 efforts this fall.