NEW ORLEANS, La. – Head Coach Andy Canegitta’s cross country team begins their 2011 campaign Thursday, September 1, in Clinton Miss. at the Choctaw Season Opener. The women return this season after finishing 5th last year at the SSAC Conference Championship, while the men’s team is coming off of a 6th place finish. The Wolfpack return cross country standouts Vanessa Righeimer, Jenna Knoblach, Kenny Tsao, and Abraham Thacker.
“We’ve focused on running a target race pace during our interval and tempo workouts this preseason,” Coach Canegitta said. “I have them training in groups where they have to keep the gap between the number one runner through seven runner to less than two minutes.”
Sophomore Vanessa Righeimer and junior Jenna Knoblach look to lead the women’s team, building upon their impressive freshmen seasons. They both accomplished three top-20 finishes in 2010.
Sophomore Abraham Thacker opened last season with a strong 7th place finish at the Wolfpack Invitational, and looks to start this year at Choctaw with the same intensity. Junior Kenny Tsao, holder of the fastest 5K time of 17:42 last season, already aims to set a new career best Thursday evening.
Twenty-four more runners, over half of them freshmen, will be representing the Wolfpack Thursday evening. The team will undoubtedly study the course for they return to Clinton twice more this season for the Choctaw Open and SSAC Conference Championship.
“We will use this race as a progressive tempo run. The goal is to set a target pace for the first mile and steadily increase the pace throughout the race. I believe both the men and the women will place well at this meet,” Canegitta continued.
The Choctaw Season Opener will be the largest one yet, as Mississippi College hosts 14 teams. The course is described as 95% grass with rolling hills and a few wooded trails. However, due to the intense summer weather, the course will challenge the Wolfpack in a new way.
“The course is extremely dry and dusty due to the lack of rain. Those not in the lead will have a dusty race,” explains Mississippi Head Coach Butch Ard.
The women begin at 5 p.m. and will be racing the 4K. The men are set to start at 5:30 p.m. and will be racing a 5K. Awards will occur promptly around 6:15 p.m.
# # #