Charlotte, N.C. - The Charlotte 49ers men's and women's cross country teams open their 2014 seasons this Friday at the Covered Bridge Open hosted by Appalachian State University, in Boone, N.C.
Racing is set to begin at 5 p.m. with the women's 5K followed by the men's four mile run at 5:35 p.m. Teams expected to compete are Wake Forest, USC-Upstate, Virginia Military Institute, Winthrop, East Carolina, East Tennessee State, Temple and UNC-Chapel Hill.
The 49ers will be under the direction of a new head coach this season as they welcome Alex Gibby to the fold. Gibby arrives in Charlotte after a successful tenure at the University of Michigan where he helped lead the men's cross country program to back-to-back Big Ten runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2013 and top 25 finishes at the NCAA Championships in his final three seasons.
Having been around the team for almost two weeks now, both Gibby and the team have started the process of getting familiar with one another as Gibby is learning his new personnel as well as the runners are learning the expectations of their new coach. "I have started to adapt them to a new training system and that is not always easy. It is certainly a work in progress, but I am very thankful that we are more than ten weeks out from the conference meet (Nov. 1), so we have a lot of time to work."
The Niners return familiar runners on both the men's and women's sides. The men return a lone senior in Zach Greth along with juniors Ben Sterett, Michael Tamayo, Getisso Dentamo, Eli Clevenger and Michael Colven.
On the women's side, a veteran lineup returns as they are led by five seniors in Taylor Carcella, Chelsea Matson, Rachel Miller, Jen Molke and Tianna McHenry. The third Charlotte finisher in all but one race she ran in a year ago, junior Morgan Richards also returns along with fellow classmates Lauren Pollard, Kristen Stout, Tiffany Lang, Ashleigh Handchen and Carolina Casin-Silva.
The men's side welcomes a large freshman class as they bring in eight runners along with a transfer from East Carolina, while on the women's side, they welcome two freshman in Erin Nelson and Caroline Sang.
After Friday's meet, the Niners will be off for two weeks before traveling to the William & Mary Open. They will return to action at the Charlotte Invitational hosted at McAlpine Park on September 26 before traveling to the Western Carolina Catamount Classic on October 17.
Looking to be in top shape, the Niners will travel to Denton, Tex., on November 1 for the C-USA Championships before running in the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships in Louisville, Ky., on November 14. The season will conclude at the NCAA Championships on November 22 in Terre Haute, Ind.