Cross Country Teams to Compete at NCAA South Regional

Nov. 10, 2005

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ORLANDO - After strong performances at the Conference USA Championships two weeks ago, the UCF cross country teams are prepared for a new challenge as they return to action at the 2005 NCAA South Regional in Gainesville, Fla. on Saturday.

On Oct. 29, the Golden Knights posted some strong team and individual efforts at their first C-USA Championship. Paced by freshman and third-team all-conference honoree Chris Mullaney, the men placed fourth of eight teams, while the women finished ninth in the 11-team field based upon impressive showings by freshmen Jamie Rzepecki and Shantile Blackburn.

This weekend presents an even more difficult test as the Golden Knights take on some of the best squads in the nation, including Alabama, Georgia, Florida State, Tennessee and host Florida. The men's 10k race beings at 10 a.m. followed by the women's at 11 a.m.

POLLING PLACE... Thanks to the strong fourth place showing at the C-USA Championship, the UCF men jumped two spots to 12th in the latest U.S. Cross Country Coaches' Association South Region Poll that was released on Nov. 1. The Golden Knights will be facing some of the top schools in region on Saturday in Gainesville. Among them are No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Tennessee.

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.

At the C-USA Championships in Lake Buena Vista on Oct. 29, Mullaney finished 13th and shaved under three seconds off his previous school record at 25:12.66. The effort also earned him a spot on the all-conference third-team.

The NCAA Regional will mark Mullaney's first career 10K race.

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.

There was a shake-up in the lineup at the C-USA Championships when sophomore Paul Fitzpatrick, a consistent member of UCF's top five, slipped into the No. 3 spot with a personal best of 26:04.23 in the 8K.

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. At the C-USA Championship, she was the No. 3 runner finishing in 45th at 19:13.92.

Freshman Jamie Rzepecki, who finished as UCF's top runner at the Lakefront Invitational and the C-USA Championships, 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. She was fifth for UCF at the conference meet.

"We've had some impressive individual performances this season," said UCF head coach Marcia 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. She was also the team's second runner at the conference championship with a personal best of 18:59.79 in the 5K.

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 taime 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.