The Spring Hill College Cross Country teams made a smooth transition into the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) in 2010 by finishing fourth in their respective conference meets, but Head Coach Joe H. Williams is ready for the Badgers to take another step in their move up the ranks of NAIA runners. "Both teams are improved over last year," he says. "But more important, we come into the season healthy. We fought nagging injuries throughout the 2010 season and that limited what we could do each week as far as practice and improving."
Senior Kate Imwalle from Mobile's McGill-Toolen Catholic High School returns to the women's team stronger than her previous seasons after hitting the weights this summer and is prepared to make a fourth consecutive trip to the NAIA National Championships. This year she hopes to have company in Vancouver, Wash. "Our women's team goal is making the Nationals," Williams says. "Our top five runners are better and we have the talent to make it. Our race this year will be against the clock. The SSAC is filled with talented teams for us to compete against, but our race this year will be against the clock. I believe beating the National qualifying time and finishing in the top three at the Conference Meet is a realistic goal for this team."
The women's team has an experienced roster that features a core of seven upperclassmen and a talented group of freshman. "Right now, we have to stay healthy and focus on the slowly increasing our mileage as we improve each day," says Williams. "We have good morale and a great work ethic that should pay off in November."
Spring Hill's men's team has seen big changes since the end of 2010. Five freshmen could all challenge to place in the top seven Badger finishers. "We have a talented group of runners this time, but our inexperience might hinder us early in the season," says Williams. "Our goal this year is for our top two runners to reach the Nationals and to have the team to peak at the Conference Meet and challenge for a top three placing."
Senior Will Kirkikis of Kenner, La., will be joined by a freshmen "Fab Five" consisting of his brother Conner Kirkikis, Ben Fleming of Metairie, La., Ben Redman from Spanish Fort, Ala., Michael Anderson of Marietta, Ga., and John Russell of Cullman, Ala., as Williams top six runners in 2011. "Everybody is healthy and they look strong," says Williams. "We are very young, but sometimes that can be a good thing."
Spring Hill College Cross Country opens the 2011 season on Saturday by hosting a dual men's and women's meet at Municipal Park in Mobile beginning at 8:30 a.m.