By Steve Cox, Sports Information Director
After a strong showing at the ODAC Championship meet, the Bridgewater College men's and women's cross country teams are looking for another strong finish this Saturday at the NCAA South/Southeast Regional Meet hosted by Texas Lutheran University.
The teams fly to Texas on Thursday morning and will get a look at the course when they arrive on the campus of Texas Lutheran.
"I know the course is flat but the times there are not typically fast," Bridgewater head coach Brian Flynn said. "We'll run the course when we get there and try to become as familiar with the course as we can."
The women's team is heading to Texas after winning the first conference title in program history.
"The tough part is coming down from that high and focusing on a common goal," Flynn said. "Winning the ODAC title was a big accomplishment for our team. You want to take time to savor that accomplishment, so I knew getting the team to re-focus on our next goal would be a tough task. They have done a good job preparing and I think they are ready to run well and reach their next goal."
That next goal, according to Flynn, is a Top 5 finish as a team. "That's where we are ranked in the regional poll. A top five finish is certainly attainable."
Two Bridgewater runners – Olivia Mills and Molly Smith – earned All-Region accolades a year ago with Top 35 individual finishes and Flynn expects both to be in that category again.
Mills placed sixth at the 2010 regional meet to become the first Bridgewater female runner to qualify for the NCAA Championship Meet.
"You never want to underestimate the competition, but I think Olivia should be near the front of the field," Flynn said. "The goal is to be in the top three."
Flynn believes Mills has improved a great deal in the past year and has the potential to earn All-American honors.
Consistency and confidence have been the keys to her improvement.
"Her training has been much more consistent this season. Her mileage is up and she has had consistently better workouts the entire season. A year ago, Olivia was learning she was good, now she knows she is good. Her confidence is way up."
Flynn believes Smith also has a shot to qualify for the national meet. "The goal is for Molly to be all-region again. If she goes out and runs a good race she can be in the mix to qualify for nationals." Flynn said a finish in the Top 12 will probably be good enough to earn a ticket to the national meet.
The men's team also has a runner capable of qualifying for the national meet as Flynn expects Luke Sohl, the ODAC Rookie of the Year, to be with the lead pack. Flynn predicts it may take a top-seven finish individually to qualify for the national meet.
"Luke is a very talented runner and he has a legitimate shot to qualify. He's probably the best runner Bridgewater has had in the past 10 years. The strategy for Luke is to be between seventh and 10th halfway through the race and never lose sight of that seventh runner. He needs to be with the leaders and not let them get away," said Flynn.
"I think Luke has matured a lot this season and he now knows how to run the 8K. At the ODAC meet, he was in the lead by himself at the 2-mile mark but the top runners reeled him in and slowly pulled away. I think he realizes now that it's easier to run with people than it is to run away from them. I think he's better when he's running with people and with the big field of runners at regionals, that could be a plus for him."
The men are ranked No. 10 in the regional poll, but are hoping for a higher finish than that on Saturday. "If we finish 10th, I will be disappointed," Flynn said. "The goal is the top seven and we'd like to finish at least second among the ODAC teams."
The men placed third at the ODAC meet, but were in contention to win the championship trophy.
"At the 3-mile mark we were right there, but we didn't close as well as Lynchburg and Guilford. That's something we have been working on in preparing for this meet," said Flynn..
"Our women put together a complete race at ODAC, but our men's team hasn't been able to do that so far. If we put together a complete race Saturday, we could have a really good finish," said Flynn. "We need our seniors to run like seniors. It's their last race so hopefully they will step up and run the race of their lives."