The Asics/Winthrop Fall Classic cross country meet started back in 1998 as a "meet among friends."
The friends are Winthrop coach Ben Paxton, The Citadel coach Jody Huddleston and Furman coach Gene Mullin. The trio has a combined total of 64 years as head coaches at their respective schools -- Paxton (16), Huddleston (23) and Mullin (25).
The meet will feature 10 schools running shorter-than-normal distances as they all tune up for upcoming conference races.
The men's race starts at 10 a.m., followed at 10:45 a.m. by the women's race.
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"This has always been an open weekend on the schedule," Paxton said. "We run shorter distances for both the men's and women's races. It gives everyone a little break in training. They get tired of running the same distance."
The men will run 6k and the women will take on a 4k course. The usual distances are 8k for the men and 5k for the women.
Winthrop's Gaines Bailey is enjoying his best season. The senior, out of Wendell, N.C., ran very well two weeks ago in the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic.
"I got a big PR (personal record) in Louisville. I'm hoping to keep dropping times," Bailey said. He ran a 25:42 over the 8k course.
"We've got a good course. We want our team to win this meet," Bailey added.
On the women's side, junior Carey Phillips also ran a personal record in Louisville -- an 18:22 on the 5k course. She has been one of the top runners for Winthrop all season.
"There is only one hill on this course, so it is super fast," Phillips said.
Furman's Megan Lordi will provide plenty of competition. She was named the Southern Conference Women's Runner of the Week this week. A junior from Greensburg, Pa., Lordi finished first at the 36th annual Furman Invitational. She covered the 5K course in 18:10. Lordi's time beat her previous personal best by nearly two and a half minutes.
Furman also has Fort Mill product Jenna Callahan on the roster.
"Jenna was certainly a top runner in South Carolina when she came to us," Mullin said. "She came right to work last year. In the conference championship, she finished eighth. She did a bang-up job as a freshman. We have a competitive team this year. She is a big part of that."
Mullin said he and Paxton have been friends for many years.
"I've been coaching for 25 years. I'll bet I've been coming to Winthrop for 20. I enjoy Ben because of the sport and the way we go about it," Mullin said.
The Citadel women's team is paced by junior Katheryn Gatewood. She has led the team in every meet this season. She ran a season-best time of 19:29 to finish 14th in the FLrunners.com Invitational in Titusville, Fla., recently.
On the men's side, Brendan Kight fell five seconds short of tying his personal record in the same meet. The junior, from Sumter, placed eighth with a time of 26:53. That marked his first top-10 finish this season and his first sub-27:00 time this year.
"We ran a little better two weeks ago in Florida. We are hoping to keep that going. This meet will serve as a good tune-up for the (Southern) conference race," Huddleston said.
Huddleston and Paxton attended the same junior college, but in different years. They never ran on the same team.
The Winthrop course is fast and the weather should be ideal for posting great times.
Furman's Tyler Johnson (17:57 in 2004) and Campbell's Alicia Valtin (14:07 in 2005) own the best times on the course. The best times turned in for Winthrop in the meet belong to Brandon Hudgins (18:35 in 06') and Megan Volkart (15:00 in 06').