Cross Country Opens Season at Mountain Dew Invitational

Sept. 15, 2006

ORLANDO - The UCF cross country team opens the 2006 season on Saturday when the Golden Knights compete in the Mountain Dew Invitational hosted by the University of Florida in Gainesville. The first race begins at 8 a.m.

The UCF men are returning to the course at which all five returners ran under 27 minutes in the 8K and placed third overall at the meet last year. Senior Brent White (Boynton Beach, Fla./Santaluces HS) and twin brother Ryan White (Boynton Beach, Fla./Santaluces HS) continue to challenge each other for the top spot, finishing 1-2 during the Black and Gold scrimmage on Sept. 1.

Juniors Paul Fitzpatrick (Ocala, Fla./Vanguard HS) and Paul Nielsen (Oviedo HS) are prepared to duplicate the success of last year's Gator Invitational. After showing improvement last spring, the duo has been consistent during workouts. Also looking to jump start his season is sophomore Daniel Conn (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic HS), who set personal bests during his freshman campaign.

Three newcomers bring experience and talent to the squad and will be making their debut this weekend. After sitting out the fall of 2005, junior Dustin Hicks (Oviedo HS) ran the program's second fastest time in the 5,000m at the Disney Invitational in March. Meanwhile, another junior Matt Clements (Oviedo HS) transferred from Tampa to join the Golden Knights. Highly recruited freshman John Horst (Christianburg, Va./Christianburg HS), the runner-up at the Virginia state championship during his senior year, also runs his first collegiate race.

On the women's side, freshman Jenny Clausen (Jackson, N.J./Jackson Memorial HS) has been a standout in practice. A two-time top 15 finisher in the Footlocker Northeast Regional, she has the potential to make an impact in Conference USA this year.

Among the veterans, junior captain Karen Kozub (Alden, N.Y./Alden HS) and sophomores Jamie Rzepecki (East Aurora, N.Y./East Aurora HS) and Shantile Blackburn (Brooklyn, N.Y./Bishop Laughlin HS) have also been strong in workouts. Kozub, an NCAA Regional qualifier in the 800-meter run, has been running shoulder-to-shoulder with Clausen. Rzepecki ran the second best time ever by a UCF rookie last fall before missing most of the spring due to injury, while Blackburn, a middle distance specialist, peaked as UCF's No. 2 runner at the 2005 C-USA Championship and continued to perform well in the spring.

Two other juniors Allison Palmer (Oviedo HS) and Elizabeth Miller (Orlando, Fla./Timber Creek HS), who were both walk-ons two years ago, are focused upon continuing to contribute to the varsity. Senior Christina Jones (Coral Springs HS) sees the Mountain Dew Invitational as a way to jump start her final season.

One of the bigger surprises during the workouts has been freshman Erica Weitz (Morganville, N.J./Marlboro HS). She finished as the No. 5 runner in the Black and Gold Scrimmage. The Golden Knights are also looking for solid efforts from freshman Shannon Kelly (Tampa, Fla./Sickles HS) and Kellie Dwyer (Ventnor, N.J./Atlantic City HS).

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