Lakers cross country team limping into 2003 season

From staff reports

The Clayton College & State University cross country teams begin their ninth season this Saturday a little banged up. But if both teams can overcome these early season setbacks, head coach Mike Mead looks for his squads to pick up where they left off last season. Both teams will be running Saturday morning at the Mercer Invitational at Vinson Valley Park near Byron. The women's 5K is scheduled for a 9 a.m. start, followed by the men's 8K race at 10 a.m.

The men and women Lakers are coming off their best seasons in 2002. Both teams finished third in the Peach Belt Conference - their best combined finishes since 1997 ? while the women placed 8th and the men 10th at the NCAA Division II South Region Championships. Both squads ran team-bests at the conference meet and each came away with two all-conference runners.

The Lakers, both ranked ninth in the preseason South Region polls, will begin 2003 with key runners recovering from minor injuries.

"We're just a little banged up at the moment," said Mead. "Our men's squad is in the worst shape since our top two guys (Tony Juarez & Adil Berkhedle) have been out for the past week. We're only carrying seven guys this season, so we're particularly thin. The ladies are not quite so bad, but we've had some folks nicked up during the past two weeks. Luckily we're much deeper and are carrying nine women this fall."

The women's squad potentially can improve on last season's successes, returning four of its top five runners. Leading the pack will be last season's one-two punch of sophomore Heather Krehbiel and junior Kim Daniel (Macon) s. Krehbiel established the team freshman 5K mark of 19:00 as the squad's MVP last season and is expected to begin the season at No. 1 once again. Daniel, who ran a collegiate-best 19:14 last fall, will be setting her sights on her third straight All-PBC award as she battles back from injury that plagued her last fall.

Also back is Penny Tinker, the lone senior, who ran a career-best 19:41 last season and junior Stephanie Gilbert who ran a season-best 21:10 at conference.

The lady Lakers add five newcomers to the squad, led by freshman Tanika Smit from Benoni, South Africa. Smit was Benoni High's top runner last year and will step in to fill the vacated spot left by La'Keshia Hayes who completed her four years in 2002 that included twice making the All-PBC team. Another addition is sophomore Melissa Shaw. The Austin Peay State University transfer is battling back from nagging injuries the past two years and could be a factor later on this season for the Lakers.

Another newcomer is junior Brittany Precht. Formerly from Texas, Precht is making her debut in collegiate cross country and will via for one of the Top 7 spots. Also joining the team is sophomore Beatrice Wade. Wade is a transfer from Spelman College and is using cross country to prepare her for track, just like the fifth newcomer, junior Janita Ekperi from Riverdale. The men's team will also be improved with the return of three of its top five runners from 2002. Juarez will be seeking his third straight All-PBC honor and team MVP award this fall while Berkhedle, the team's 8K record holder goes for his third straight PBC award. Also returning is much-improved sophomore Njoroge Ngaruiya, who earned All-State honors in 2002. The Lakers bring in a junior, a senior and two freshmen to make up the seven-man squad for 2003. Leading the list of newcomers is junior Oscar Campos, a transfer from East Los Angeles College. Campos was the No. 4 runner last season on an East Los Angeles team that won California's state junior college cross country team title.

New to cross country, but not to Clayton State is senior Stephen Hughes. Hughes completed his soccer eligibility with the Lakers last fall and is running cross country for the first time. The two freshmen are Tim McCullough and Eric Simmons from . McCullough ran for Southern High School while Simmons was runner-up in the 800m at this spring's Class AAA state finals for Carrollton High School.

CCSU women's soccer team falls: The Clayton College & State University women's soccer team dropped its third match of the season Wednesday, falling 5-0 to non-conference opponent Carson-Newman College. The Lady Eagle scoring tandem of Rebecca Angus and Liz Jallo provided the offensive firepower, combining for three and two goals, respectively, to power C-N to victory.

Jallo scored the first goal of the match off an assist by Melanie Waters in the 13th minute. Her second goal came in the 18th minute when she shot past Clayton State's diving keeper Judith Chime.