Previewing the 2017 ODAC Cross Country Championships

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. --- ODAC cross country championship courses have varied from hilly and slower venues to flat and fast over the past several years. It is a return to the latter for the 2017 conference meet with all 13 cross country member schools sending their squads to the eastern-most reaches of the league footprint to Virginia Wesleyan University.

The course will be laid out on the grounds of VWU's campus with runners competing on a two-kilometer loop (course map). The women's race will open this season's affair with a six-kilometer competition at 11:00 a.m. The men's event will follow at noon and cover eight-kilometers.

Timing will be provided by Mettle Events and posted to the results site as soon as each race concludes. The championship will also be webcasted as well as shown on Facebook Live by Virginia Wesleyan.

RELATED: ODAC Championships Site | Host Site by Virginia Wesleyan

Washington and Lee University dominated both sides of the 2016 championships, sweeping the team titles for a second straight season. The Generals captured their 16th overall women's crown by 29 points over Roanoke College and increased their margin to 31 points over Lynchburg College on the way hoisting the program's 11th men's trophy. Nine Generals -- five women and four men -- earned All-ODAC recognition to power the dual-championship effort.

The only definitive "prediction" that can be drawn in leadup to the this season's meet is there will be a pair of new individual champions. Neither the women's nor the men's ranks features a former medalist, including the graduation of last year's champions -- Kerri Dalton from Roanoke and Mac Strehler from Washington and Lee.

In the women's competition, any new runners looking to crack the top-14 and earn All-ODAC recognition will likely need to displace one of the 11 all-league performers eligible for another championship appearance. That list includes five first team competitors in Samantha Yates and Maggie Seybold from Washington and Lee, Morgan Watson (formerly Alvis) and Samantha Schreiber from Lynchburg, and Virginia Wesleyan's Marissa Coombs. Second team returners are highlighted by three more Generals in Kirsten McMichael, Julia Moody, and Katie Bearup, Guilford's Sommer Fanney, Shenandoah's Emily Miller, and Eastern Mennonite's Megan Good.

Benchmarking any ODAC championship is always a difficult chore given the different types of courses and distances teams run throughout their regular campaigns, but Coombs has to be considered among the favorites to stop the watches first. The track & field All-American has her sights set on not only improving upon her seventh-place finish at the 2016 ODAC championships, but a second straight strong showing at regionals two weeks from Saturday to qualify for the national championships for a second straight year. Her ODAC-best 6K time sits at 21:55.30.

Lynchburg's Schreiber owns three of the top-10 best marks by league runners this season, with her swiftest showing at 22:44.4. She along with Watson (22:57.6) and Michela Cholak (22:42.4) have Lynchburg poised for a run at the team crown let alone personal glory. Eastern Mennonite's Michaela Mast (23:11.4) will challenge for a top-14 position as well as Rookie of the Meet laurels. Despite her listed class year as a senior, this is Mast's first season competing in collegiate cross country, making her eligible for such an honor.

Others to keep an eye on include W&L's McMichael (23:13.4), Calista Ariel (22:28.2) from Bridgewater, Emily Latimer (21:56.1) from Virginia Wesleyan, Abby May from Lynchburg, and Alette McGuire (23:51.3) from Emory & Henry. McGuire may also make a run at top rookie.

RELATED: 2017 Women's Top Times | 2017 Men's Top Times

On the men's side, the path to a top-14 finish is much more open with just five All-ODAC runners slated for Saturday's field. W&L's Mackenzye Leroy and BC's Jamie Hiegel picked up first team honors, while W&L's Cooper Baird, LC's Tristan Lucy-Speidel, and RC's Kevin Waterman earned second team awards.

One of the favorites to secure Runner of the Meet honors on Saturday is Hiegel, who led the conference's contingent with a 59th-place finish at the 2016 national championships. Hiegel owns two of the top-three best 8K times this season, including a conference-fastest 25:24.5.

Washington and Lee is missing a few pieces from the squad that qualified for last season's nationals via an automatic bid by finishing second at the regional championships. But the Generals still boast plenty of ability with Patrick Hunter (25:33.1), Cooper Baird (26:07.9), Hank Patrick (26:08.2), Austin Kinne (26:10.4), and Freddie Marx (26:14.4) all posting top-10 times this season.

Others to keep an eye on include Lucy-Speidel (25:46.4), BC's Robert Theimer (25:46.8), Ray Parsons (26:34.8) from Shenandoah, and Roanoke's Howard Daniels (26:48.8). Also look out for Virginia Wesleyan freshman Jordan Sulcer (26:34.7), who may be a favorite with W&L's Marx for the meet's top rookie.

RELATED: Championship Webcast

For more information on ODAC cross country and the 2017 championships, visit the websites of any of the participating schools.  You can also visit the home of the ODAC on the Internet at and view the ODAC cross country championship website as well as the host site by Virginia Wesleyan. Don't forget to become a fan of the ODAC on Facebook and follow @odacathletics on Twitter and Instagram!