Wallace State’s cross country teams open the season today in the 16th annual Foothills Cross Country Invitational, hosted by Jacksonville State University Oxford’s Choccolocco Park Sports Complex.
Wallace State’s women compete in the 4K at 6 p.m. and the men follow with the 5K at 6:45.
It kicks off the first of six regular season meets for Wallace State spanning September and October.
“We’re pumped up and ready to go. The chemistry is great on both teams. This entire group pulls for each other and trains as hard as you can ask them. We’re expecting big things from both,” said Wallace State coach Stan Narewski.
Wallace State’s men’s team returns six runners from last year’s team, which won a third straight conference championship meet and finished eighth at nationals.
Sophomores Raleigh Stamps, Dakota Sheppard, Jakori James and Jonathan Collett each finished among the top eight at the conference meet with Stamps finishing third overall. Cole Akridge and Dave Hubert round out the sophomore class.
Freshmen on the men’s team this season are Dylan Andrews, Joseph Arriaga, Brady Helms, Kayd Hightower, Jack Joiner, Mason Worrell and Andrew Wrenn. Reid Huddleston is the manager.
“Every runner on our men’s team continues to get better. We have some dynamic sophomores, and our freshmen bring new ingredients to the team,” Narewski. “It’s going to hard to predict on a weekly basis who finishes first and who finishes 10th. It may shake out one week and be completely opposite the next. It’s a good problem to have.”
Wallace State’s women’s team also won a third straight conference championship last season, placing sixth at nationals.
For the Lady Lions, sophomores Jaycee Biffle and Ally Amerson should lead the pack after each finished among the top eight at the conference tournament. Ashleigh White is among the returning sophomores and Macie Ellis is a transfer sophomore from the University of Houston.
The freshman class consists of Dani Akridge, Alexis Crisp, Tess Heaton, Trinity Roberts, Katie Serrato and Aylin Vega.
“Similar to our men, you can flip a coin with our women. You may see a new face at the leaderboard each meet. Our women are excited to compete,” Narewski said.
Yessi Pascual-Contreras is the women’s manager and Taylor Barkley, a former Lion, is a graduate assistant.
Both Wallace State teams will compete this season in meets at Huntingdon, Montevallo, UAH, Blue Mountain (Miss.) College and Berry (Ga.) College. The NJCAA Division II national meet is in Richmond, Va.