Montevallo women’s cross country opens season as Peach Belt favorite

FROM STAFF REPORTS

The University of Montevallo women’s cross country team was selected as the preseason favorite in the Peach Belt Conference coaches’ poll released by the league office Aug. 15.

The Falcons received nine of a possible 11 first-place votes in the poll and 118 points, 14 ahead of second-place Augusta State University.

Head coach Tommy Barksdale and the Falcons won their first Peach Belt Conference Championship in 2011 before finishing second in the Southeast Region Championship. Montevallo also advanced to its first NCAA Championship in program history last season.

Montevallo returns its top four runners from a year ago, all of whom placed in the top-10 in the Peach Belt Conference Championship.

Senior Haley Evans won the 2011 conference race and was the team’s top finisher in five of seven meets last season. Also back is senior Kaley Glover, who was fifth at the conference championships and led the team in their first NCAA Championships appearance. In-Mi Matsunaga returns for her junior season after finishing seventh at the conference championships, while sophomore Lauren Recchia was 10th in her first conference meet.

Sophomores Katie Vanover, Jessie Clark, Jill Kleist and freshmen Brooke Graham will look to help keep the Falcons among the conference’s elite teams.

Clayton State University was third in the poll, while Columbus State University was fourth and UNC-Pembroke fifth. Flagler, Georgia College and State, USC-Aiken, Young Harris, North Georgia, Francis Marion and Georgia Southwestern State rounded out the voting. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.

The Falcons open up their 2012 season on Aug. 31 as they host the Early Bird Classic. Montevallo will host the Peach Belt Conference Championships on campus on Saturday, Oct. 20, which marks the school’s first time to host a PBC championship event.