ASHEVILLE. N.C. – The UNC Asheville men’s and women’s cross country teams depart Asheville today to compete in the Big South Conference championships that will be held at Vista Links Golf Course in Buena Vista, Va. Saturday’s championship will be hosted by VMI.


Both teams come into the championship running very well. The women’s team produced a fourth-place finish at the Blue Ridge Open at Appalachian State two weeks ago, while the men’s squad came in 11th. The field at ASU was deep and talented as each Bulldog team beat out some big-time schools in the meet.


On the women’s side, the Bulldogs could be ready to make a run at their highest finish in 10 years. Asheville finished second in 2003 and if everything goes well, the Bulldogs could be knocking on the door to second and maybe even first if enough things fell into place.


The women’s team finished fifth last year and that was a big improvement from the previous year’s ninth-place finish.


“We believe we’re running at our best and this is when you want to do it,” stated Bulldog coach Jesse Norman. “Our team is really excited and ready to run well on Saturday.”


Red-shirt senior Melanie Kulesz has enjoyed a magnificent senior year. She has been the Bulldogs top runners in four of Asheville’s five meets, including an impressive ninth-place finish at the Blue Ridge Open two weeks ago.


Freshman Sarah Heisner has posted solid times throughout the year. Asheville has also had good results from junior Adrian Etheridge, sophomores Erin Dalton and Kelsie Rubino.


The men’s team also finished in fifth place last year and hopes to improve on that this year.


“We’ve really improved as the year has progressed and showed great balance,” commented Norman. “Our team has a lot of youth on it and is only going to get better, but we’re looking to make some noise on Saturday, as well.”


Junior Kevin Paradise and freshman Dominic Colloichio have led Asheville throughout the year.  The Bulldogs won the Asheville Cross Country Carnival back in September.


The men’s team has also had solid contributions from Brent Schouler, Andy Thornburg and Patrick Osborne this season.