SFA Looking to Add to Cross Country History
Oct. 26, 2006
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Stephen F. Austin cross country teams will compete in the Southland Conference Championships Friday with the chance to make some history. And fans of the Lumberjack and Ladyjack programs will have a good chance to witness that history first-hand. The teams will be running in their own back yard as the 2006 SLC Championships will be held at Pecan Acres Park in Nacogdoches, marking the first time SFA has hosted the meet since 2001. The women's 6,000-meter race will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be followed by the men's 8,000-meter run at 10:30.
For the Lumberjacks, Friday's race will be an opportunity to add to the history they've already made. SFA has won five straight men's team championships, dating back to 2001. That's a longer streak than any other Southland school can boast since the league joined the NCAA Division I ranks. Only Abilene Christian had a longer run of conference crowns with seven championships in a row during the SLC's Division II days.
A team title would also move the Lumberjacks into second place on the league's list of overall championships with McNeese State being the only active SLC member ahead of SFA, in terms of team titles.
The Lumberjacks' current run of dominance began in 2001, following a slow build toward elite status in the late 1990s. SFA finished second or third at the SLC Championships in three straight years, leading up to a fourth-place finish in the 2000 meet, held at Piney Woods Country Club. When the conference meet returned to Nacogdoches the following year, the Lumberjacks were ready. SFA posted what was then a program-best 52 points to finish 14 ahead of second-place McNeese State for the first men's cross country title in school history.
Since that first win, the Lumberjacks have improved their conference-championship performance each year, scoring 38 points in 2002, 34 in 2003, 32 in 2004, and 28 -- just nine points off the all-time conference record -- in 2005. Last year's showing was the most dominant, by far. The Lumberjacks ran away from second-place team Sam Houston State, winning by 31 points, the second-widest margin of victory at the SLC Championships in program history.
All five of SFA's scoring runners finished in the Top 10 individually, led by Cody Clark, who won the individual championship. Clark's title marks the third time in the last four years a Lumberjack has won the individual crown. Clark returns for this year's race, as do 2005 all-conference selections Teddy Fanta, Cole Hollingsworth, Chance Edwards and Rodney Joseph, along with fifth-year seniors Marc Farris and Julian Acuna, who redshirted last year's race.
The Ladyjacks also have the chance to impact the SLC record books on Friday. With a team title, SFA could unseat two-time defending champion Lamar and break a tie for the most team championships in SLC history. Currently, the Ladyjacks are locked with Texas-San Antonio atop that list with five titles apiece. SFA won back-to-back championships in 1987 and '88, then won another title in 1990 before winning consecutive crowns again in 2002 and '03.
The Ladyjacks haven't won a team title since their dominant 2003 performance, when they left second-place Texas-Arlington behind by 30 points. But that hasn't stopped SFA from maintaining another impressive streak. The Ladyjacks have won four straight individual championships, dating back to 2002, when Ana Rodriguez won the first of her two titles. Since Rodriguez' departure, Ashley Monteau has taken up the banner, winning the solo crown in both 2004 and '05.
Monteau's winning time of 20:24.27 at the 2004 race in Beaumont set the conference record for a 6,000-meter course. Last year, Monteau led the Ladyjacks to a second-place team finish with her second straight individual title. She crossed the line nearly a full minute ahead of the second-place runner.
Another individual championship this year would put both Monteau and the Ladyjack program in unique company. SFA is currently tied with McNeese State for the most individual champions in conference history with five. A sixth solo title would not only break that tie, but make Monteau just the third women's athlete in conference history to win three consecutive SLC championships.
-- SFA --