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 prepares for championships

The University of Alabama cross-country teams are ready to be competitive and travel to Gainesville, Fla., to compete in the SEC Championships Friday.

The men’s team had several competitive finishes it hopes will prepare it for the conference championships, including a seventh-place finish at the hometown Crimson Classic meet.

“As a team in the SEC, it’s pretty hard since we’re still an up-and-coming team,” junior Matt Airola said. “We’re projected like sixth or seventh, so anything above that is an accomplishment.”

On the women’s team, expectations are slightly higher but also harder to predict.

“We were talking to [assistant distance] coach Tribble, and he was telling us that we could finish as high as second and probably as low as eighth,” sophomore Katelyn Greenleaf said. “Definitely runner-up would be a good accomplishment team-wise.”

Airola said the relatively inexperienced team has made several strides toward that goal this season.

“I think we’ve met expectations,” Airola said. “The strides that we’ve made this year compared to the times that they ran last year are like a minute or faster. The stats are there to show that we’ve improved, but it’s still in the process.”

For the women, experience has been key to the marked growth the team has shown this season, winning three team titles and finishing 10th of 48 at a fourth meet.

“Last year, we were all pretty new, being mostly freshmen,” Greenleaf said. “This year, we were expected to do better than we did last year, but I think we’ve overachieved from what the coaches were expecting us to do. We definitely made huge jumps forward. Hopefully that continues and we do better at SEC than we did even last year.”

The cross-country team owes much of its growth this season to Greenleaf and Airola. Greenleaf finished second in three of four meets this year and said she is looking to improve on her 20th place finish in last year’s conference championships.

“Katelyn will lead the way for us again this year,” coach Dan Waters said before the season. “She has come into camp this summer in excellent shape and looks ready to lead our team. After coming in as a top-20 finisher at SECs as a freshman, we have big hopes for her.”

For Airola, who transferred to Alabama last spring from American River Community College, the key to his leadership has been setting an example.

“When I came in, in track last season, I wanted to be someone that people looked up to because I ran so fast,” Airola said. “I’m not really a leader in that I’m going to tell somebody to do something, but I want people to follow the workouts that I do by example.”

Overall, Airola and Greenleaf said the team is ready to compete this weekend. Airola said the team is prepared for any conditions.

“I think we’re ready for everything that’s about to be thrown our way,” he said.

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