Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Tide to begin season in Nashville

The University of Alabama women’s cross country team kicks off its season today, as the Crimson Tide will participate in the Belmont Invitational in Nashville, Tenn.

            The event, co-hosted by Vanderbilt University and Belmont University, will include 8-10 teams, including teams from the University of Tennessee, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Middle Tennessee State University and Murray State University.

            As the Tide prepares for their first meet, head coach Randy Hasenbank said this is the time where he can evaluate his team.

            “It’s a good barometer to see where they’re at and how fit they are,” he said. “I can evaluate the freshmen, newcomers and transfers. After three weeks of training, it will be fun to go out and compete.”

            Hasenbank is entering his fourth season as the head coach of the women’s cross country team. During his reign as head coach, he has had at least one NCAA All-South Region performer each year, including juniors Sara Vaughn and Kelsey Johnson. In 2006, his first season with the Tide, he guided Julia Hicks to All-Region honors and the NCAA Cross Country National Championships.

            This was the first NCAA qualifier for the Tide since 2000.  

            As success has followed the Tide, so have expectations. Last season, they finished fifth in the Southeastern Conference and seventh in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association polls.

However, Alabama jumped up one spot in each poll this season. The Tide is slated to finish in a three-way tie with the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt for fourth in the SEC and is also picked to finish sixth in USTFCCCA polls.

With a wide-open field this year, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top, Hasenbank said.

“It’s a fair ranking, but there is so much parity from three to seven,” he said. “Our goal is a top-three finish in the SEC and the Region, at a minimum.”

With a talented group of runners, led by Johnson, an All-South and All-SEC performer in 2008, the players are ready to live up to expectations this season.

“The first few years, we spent a lot of time working to exceed where we were,” Hasenbank said. “Now we’re trying to match expectations and be in the top three.”

He said if they can finish in the top three, they will be knocking on the door of a national ranking and championship.

Along with Johnson, Hasenbank said players such as juniors Andrea Torske and Leigh Gilmore, sophomores Katlyn Will and Elsbeth Denton and senior Haley Moody are going to be crucial to their success this season.

“We have a lot of depth, and we have to be ready to race when the time comes,” Hasenbank said.

Along with depth, Alabama has experience. Of the 17 members on the roster, 11 of them are either juniors or seniors, giving the Tide veteran leadership they have not seen in Hasenbank’s time as coach.

“Well, it eliminates the excuse that we’re young,” Hasenbank said. “They’re seasoned, and hopefully they’ll go home and prepare for how intense and fierce it will be and get ready for it.”

After this season’s opening meet in Nashville, Alabama returns home for its first home meet of the season. The Crimson Classic will take place in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 18.

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