Charlotte, N.C. - As the 2012 season swiftly approaches, the Charlotte men's and women's cross country teams has its sights set on not only meeting expectations, but exceeding them.
The women's team who has been a top contender in the Atlantic 10 over the years, finished third at the conference championship last season. The 49ers concluded their 2011 season with a tenth place finish at the NCAA Southeast Regional. Charlotte was recently picked fourth in the 2012 A-10 preseason coaches' poll and is ranked 11th in the NCAA Southeast Region preseason poll.
Charlotte returns eight of its top ten runners from last season after losing its top runner, Amanda Goetschius. However the 49ers' depth and addition of several key newcomers will be one of their biggest assets of the 2012 season.
Charlotte brings back its No.2 runner, Hana Sutchar. Last season at the NCAA Southeast Regionals, Sutchar finished 32nd overall with a time of 21:18, just seven spots from earning All-Region honors. Charlotte's 2011 recruiting class also turned in tremendous first-year stints, adding to the strength of the team.
Rookies Jenna Christensen (92nd in 22:17.5) and Jen Molke (104th in 22:28) were third and fourth for Charlotte, both producing outstanding performances in the first regional of their careers. Katie Holloway was also a top runner for the 49ers last year until she suffered an injury. However, she looks to rebound this season and add to Charlotte's success.
"All of those girls were really solid for us last season," said head coach Ed Schlichter. "They've all been working hard over the summer. They know the amount of work that it's going to take to reach their goals and they never complain. They've really come together and I'm excited to see how their season goes."
Freshmen Morgan Richards and Lauren Pollard are expected to have an immediate impact for the women's team. Richards' speed and endurance, along with her passion and dedication to succeed and aid the team will be an advantage to the program. Pollard, who brings a lot of potential to the program, shined in her high school career and will look to be one of Charlotte's top runners this year.
Improving and rebuilding has been the focus of the men's team over the past few years. After turning in a ninth place finish at the A-10 championship last season, the 49ers are centering its efforts on becoming more competitive.
Charlotte returns most of its runners, with sophomore Zach Greth having a thriving freshman campaign last year. In 2011, Greth was the ninth freshman runner in the region. After posting some solid times and impressive runs for the 49ers, Greth is someone to be on the lookout for to rise up and become a leader this season.
"I have pretty high expectations for these guys," Schlichter said." The men's team overall has a lot of experience and they bring a wealth of talent to the team."
Both teams have steadily been at work prepping for the 2012 season with the hopes and intentions of contending for an A-10 title.
"I think this is the best team that we've ever had," Schlichter said. "Both teams bring something very exceptional. I'm looking forward to seeing how the season unfolds, and I think that it should be a good year.
The 49ers open the season on Friday, Aug. 31 at the Western Carolina Invitational in Cullowhee, N.C., beginning at 6 p.m.