AMERICUS – The Peach Belt Conference will hold its 23rd men's and women's cross country championships this Saturday at the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Sports Complex. The women's 6k race will begin at 9:00 am with the men's 8k race following at 9:45 am. Georgia Southwestern will be the host of the event, this will be their first time hosting a PBC Championship.
The PBC men's race could be among the closest ever run in the Peach Belt. In 2012, Columbus State put four runners in the top six to take the title by 42 points. The Cougars have won six of the last seven PBC championships and have the talent to repeat yet again after finishing in the top three of every event they have run this season including a win at the Charlotte Cross Country Invitational. Jacob Dirkman has led the Cougars in two of their three races and finished second in Charlotte.
GRU Augusta won the 2011 PBC title and were second last season. This year, the Jaguars won the GSW Remembrance Run, run on the same course as Saturday's championship. They also took the title at their own Jaguar Invitational and have not finished out of the top three in any race they have competed in. Senior Jaiden Brandt has been named the PBC runner of the week twice this season and holds two of the fastest three 8k times run in the conference this year, including his league-best 25:05 at the Royals Cross Country Invitational.
Flagler had their best PBC championship result last year when they finished third overall. The Saints have finished in the top 10 in all four of their races this year with a second-place at the Fire Short Course Invitational to begin the season. Junior Corey Mundy has two wins this year at the Fire Short Course and the UT Pre-Regional and has the second-fastest 8k time in the Peach Belt with his 25:11 at the Florida State Invitational.
UNC Pembroke won the UNCW Seahawk Invitational and the Bulldog Stampede this year with four top-five finishes in four races. The Braves have been led by sophomore Joel Johnston in every race this season; Johnston won the Bulldog Stampede and has two other top-five finishes.
Clayton State's Job Kemboi has run the fourth- and fifth-fastest 8k times in the PBC this season. The sophomore won the GSW Remembrance Run on the Americus course and also the UWG Wolves Invitational two weeks ago. As a team, Clayton State was third at the UAH Invitational and the UWG Wolves invite.
After finishing dead last in the PBC for four years in a row, Armstrong Atlantic State University turned a corner in 2013 and threaten to make an impact in Saturday's race. Pablo Calcedo Castro won the GC Bobcat Invitational and was named a PBC runner of the week. The Pirates as a team have one second-place and two third-place finishes in their four races this year.
Georgia College has won three of their five events during the regular season. The Bobcats Trevor Turner won the Bridgestone-Pacer Invitational while Paul McNeil won the Captain Chris Invitational. Montevallo finished second at their own Falcon Invitational on Oct. 12, David Smith won the race in 27:59. Francis Marion was third at the CCU Invitational, the Bridgestone-Pacer and their own FMU Invite. Justin Woodard led the Patriots in three of their five races. Young Harris won the WWC Fighting Owls invite and were tied for second at the Jaguar Invitational. Cody Decker has led the Mountain Lions in three of their races while Raul Ramirez was named a runner of the week with his finish at the Berry Invitational.
The women's race could be just as close as the men's with eight of the PBC's 12 teams winning races this year.
Clayton State is the defending Peach Belt champions; capturing their second title last year with a seven-point margin over Columbus State, the second-closest margin of victory in PBC history. This year, the Lakers have finished in the top five of every event they have run, including a win at the UWG Wolves Invitational, their last race before the PBC. Junior Racquel Valadez has led the team in two of their four races with a second-place at the GSW Remembrance Run and third at UWG. Maia Kuhnen was third at GSW and fourth at the UAH Invitational.
Columbus State won six PBC titles in a row from 2005-10 and look to get back on top this Saturday. The Cougars won the GSW Remembrance Run, held on the same course as this Saturday's PBC race, and the JSU Gem of the Hills Invitational. Senior Moneque English could become a four-time All-Conference runner this year and was named a PBC runner of the week this year after finishing second at the Gem of the Hills.
UNC Pembroke finished third at the 2012 PBC Championship, their second third-place finish in the last three years. The Braves hope to break through with their first title behind the fleet feet of sophomore Kyndal Boykin. Boykin set school records in the 5k and 6k this year and is the only PBC runner to be named a Runner of the Week twice this season. She has not finished outside of the top 10 in any of her four races and won the UNCW Seahawk Invitational. Boykin also holds the fastest 6k time run in the conference this season with her 22:03 at the Charlotte Invitational.
Flagler won the Fire Short Course Invitational and the UT Pre-Regional and are poised for their best result in the PBC Championship. The Saints are led by freshman Sara Mund who was named a PBC runner of the week after finishing second at the Mountain Dew Invitational in a time of 22:21, the third-fastest 6k run in the league this year.
North Georgia finished fourth in the GSW Remembrance Run and won their own invitational and the Truett-McConnell invite. Maggie Tindol has led the Nighthawks in every race this year and won the UNG event.
Montevallo finished third a both the Gulf Coast Stampede and their own Falcon Invitational. Freshman Cheyenne Thompson was a PBC runner of the week after winning the Remembrance Run; she also won the Falcon invite.
GRU Augusta has finished in the top six of all four races this season. Freshman Jordan Humphrey was named a runner of the week and won the Jaguar Invitational. She was also GRU's top finisher at the Royals XC Challenge.
Georgia College won the Bridgestone-Pacer Invitational and has three second-place finishes this season. Taylor Roeck was fourth at the GC Bobcat and the Pacer invite while Rachel Pasko was fifth at the Pop Crowell Invitational.
Francis Marion won their own FMU Invitational just last week and have a pair of second-place finishes this season. Whitney Wagner has led the Patriots in every race this season, finishing second at the FMU and third at the CCU Invitational.
Georgia Southwestern hosts the PBC Championships for the first time in school history. The Hurricanes were third at the Pointe Invitational and fourth at the JSU Gem of the Hills. Jessi Young was the 2012 PBC Freshman of the Year and this season won the Lady Cougar Invitational and the Skiles Farm Run.
USC Aiken was third at their own Bridgestone-Pacer invite and the FMU Invitational. Keely Gillespie has back-to-back wins heading into the PBC; taking the title at the Bridgestone-Pacer and FMU events. She has four top 10's in her five races this year.
Young Harris won three events in 2013: the GC Bobcat, Jaguar Invitational and WWC Fighting Owls invite. Nicole Smith was named a PBC Runner of the Week and has two wins this year.
Admission to the PBC Championships is free. For the first time, the Peach Belt will provide a live web stream of the finish line of the race. The stream will begin at approximately 9:00 am and can be seen on the PBC's Ustream channel at http://www.ustream.tv/peachbeltconference
Thank you to the Peach Belt Conference for providing this story