By Tony Casey

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The UNC Asheville men's and women's cross country teams head to the Pre-National Meet at the University of Louisville Saturday, and the main goal for both is gaining big meet experience and carrying confidence into the championship portion of the season.


Louisville's Tom Sawyer State Park will host the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships on Nov. 17, and the Bulldogs will get a preview of the course while competing in the black unseeded races. The men are slated to go off at 10:30 a.m. and the women at 11:30 a.m.


Year in and year out, the competition is steep at the Pre-National Meet, with the top programs in the country strategizing their races against each other in preparation for the national championships. This year's meet contains 15 nationally ranked teams among the nearly 130 teams.


UNC Asheville is coming off of a strong showing at the invitational they hosted two weeks ago, where the men were victorious, and the women took second. Both freshman Kevin Paradise and senior Emma Bussard won the individual races as well. Heading into this weekend, the Bulldogs are racing with their top 10 men and a squad of their nine fastest women.


This week has given head coach Jesse Norman's team confidence, and he is excited to have both teams rested up for the first time in a few weeks before heading into the Big South Conference Championships.


"After the workout yesterday it seems as though both teams are really excited, rested and ready to go for the race this weekend," Norman said. "We've backed off the volume and intensity a little this week to get them a little more rested so that we can have one last big performance before the conference meet in two weeks."


With no shortage of freshmen running for his teams this year, Norman is hoping for this meet to lay a sturdy foundation of experience for his young runners among the NCAA's best teams and runners.


"The biggest thing for the freshmen is to help them understand that this is the biggest meet they will be a part of at this point in their careers," Norman said about his team. "With the expected teams and the condition of the course, we are trying to convince them that they will set two-mile or 5K PRs en route to a 6K or 8K race, and that that is okay."


Results and a story will be posted at after the meet.