By Scott Phillips
The Americus Times-Recorder
AMERICUS — Saturday morning, Georgia Southwestern's women's cross country team will host their Fourth Annual Remembrance Run to open the 2013-14 season. Last year at the Remembrance Run, the Lady 'Canes powered their way to a second place finish, second to only Gulf Coast Conference standout Valdosta State. On Saturday, the Lady 'Canes are hoping to take that next step with their valuable mix of returning leadership and talented newcomers.
The Fourth Annual Remembrance Run will definitely be one to remember as the Lady Hurricanes of GSW compete on their new cross country course, located at the Sumter County Recreation Complex off Highway 19, for the first time. The nature trail-turned cross country course has already received high praise from many different teams and coaches, and will host the Peach Belt Conference Cross County Championship Meet later this season.
Nearly 20 complete teams will be in attendance at the Remembrance Run as the Lady 'Canes try to improve on their impressive second place performance from last season. A big advantage that the Lady 'Canes bring into the meet is having their top two runners from last year's event, Jessi Young and Lisa Espino, back again this season.
Young began a tremendous freshman campaign at the Third Annual Remembrance Run last season by breaking a school record with a blazing 21:12 to finish second overall in the meet. Over the next two meets, Young improved on her new record by running a 20:41 in the Darton Invite and nearly breaking the 20 minute barrier with a 20:03 time in the Point University Invitational. Young finished the season with an eighth place spot in the Peach Belt Conference Championships, and was named to the PBC All-Conference Second Team for her strong year.
Espino, a senior from Lyons, Ga., finished right on the heels of Young in the Remembrance Run last season. Espino's lightning-fast time of 21:35 was only 23 seconds off of Young's pace, giving her a seventh place overall finish in the meet. According to GSW head women's cross country coach Brittney Skiles, having these two experienced runners back will be a huge key to their team's success on Saturday.
"Those two are definitely going to be leading the team. I feel like they are going to stay strong and have a positive attitude," she said. "The rest of the girls are going to look up to them."
Skiles' team has been preparing on the new cross country course that has already hosted a high school cross country meet as well as several local practices. When asked her thoughts on the new course, Skiles said that she expects it to be a pretty fast course.
"I think it is going to be fairly fast. There are some hills in it, but with the first mile I think it's going to be a fast course if you run it smart," she said. "Columbus State University is one of the top teams in our conference and they came down and ran it and they are really excited about running it this weekend."
As for her outlook on the 2013-14 season, Skiles is very happy with the ability of her team to be competitive, especially the young sophomore standout.
"This season I think is a much stronger team than last year. Jessi came into this season in better shape than last season and I expect even more out of her this year. I really feel like she will be in the top five in the conference."
The Fourth Annual Remembrance Run will begin at 8:30 a.m. for the Lady 'Canes, with the men's 8K to follow.