TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (August 23, 2018) – Tallahassee Community College's men's and women's cross country teams will open the 2018 season at Friday's Cougar XC Challenge hosted by Godby High School.
The dual 5Ks will take place at Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park beginning with the men's race at 5 p.m. followed by the women at 5:30 p.m.
For head coach Gary Droze's Eagles, Friday's women's race is expected to be a de facto head-to-head meet against cross country newcomer Florida Gateway College (formerly Lake City Community College). The Timberwolves are one of three new schools running the women's circuit in 2018, bringing the total number of Region 8 teams to eight – twice as many from 2016 when Tallahassee debuted.
While the Tallahassee men are expected to run unopposed on Friday, they will have plenty of competition as the season progresses. Like the women, three new Region 8 schools will hit the trails this fall, enough for a sanctioned FCSAA Championship event.
For the third straight year, Apalachee Regional Park will host the FCSAA Cross Country Championships on October 26. In each of the first two seasons, Tallahassee has finished third in the women's team standings while Droze's efforts have produced a total of three all-state performers.
Samantha Reilly, who now assists Droze, finished sixth in 2016. Right behind her was Mia Wiederkehr (So./Bradenton, Fla.), who returns this fall after sitting out the 2017 season. Last year, Meagan Giddens delivered Tallahassee its first individual state championship with a dominating performance at the ARP.
This year, Rachel Williams (So./Blountstown, Fla.) assumes the mantel of lead runner for the Eagles. Steady improvement marked her freshman season, capped by a 14th-place finish at the state championship. Now, she and Wiederkehr offer something Droze has not had in the team's first two campaigns – a returning runner. Five freshmen will join them on the roster.
Dorcas Jepleting (Fr./Eldoret, Kenya) has collegiate experience – she ran the outdoor track season at the University of Tampa in the spring of 2017 and a half marathon last fall at Tallahassee but has yet to compete in cross country.
A name that will be familiar to the Big Bend running community is Genevieve Printiss (Fr./Carrabelle, Fla.), the record-setting runner from Franklin County High School. Chiles High School graduate Kendall Ward (Fr./Tallahassee, Fla.) follows in the footsteps of her sister, Reagan, who ran for the Eagles in 2016.
Meanwhile, the Tallahassee men will feature an entirely new roster. Seven freshmen from seven different high schools from Blountstown to Tampa and all points in between.
Locally, the Eagles snagged Gannon Hundley, who last ran competitively in 2016 for Droze at Maclay, and Dalton Gray, a product of the late Paul Hoover at Wakulla High School.
Blountstown's Jesse Boyd and Franklin County's Simon Hodgson, the school's first male runner to qualify for the state championships, are two other names that will add to the Big Bend contingent.
The remaining three runners come from points farther south – Gio Duran (Wesley Chapel, Fla./Wiregrass Ranch HS), Andrew McMillan (Tampa, Fla./T.R. Robinson HS) and Brandon Flagler (Deerfield Beach, Fla./Monarch HS), who finished 10th in the FHSAA Class 4A Championships last fall.