By Tony Casey 

The UNC Asheville Cross Country Invitational will be held Saturday at Asheville Christian Academy in Swannanoa, marking the program's first home meet since 2007.


Visiting schools include the men's and women's teams from Brevard College and Wofford. Charleston Southern and Milligan will have just their women's teams competing.


Norman anticipates a strong showing from the Bulldogs.


"I'm expecting us to win on both sides," Norman said. "While it is a smaller meet, it will have some good competition that will push our student-athletes."


He is excited that his teams will get a chance to race in front of a home crowd while taking advantage of competing on their home course.


"I think it helps knowing the ins and outs of the course, as you know that there is a point to push and a point to relax and recover," Norman said.


This race will also be the transitional point between the beginning of the year and the championship season, which begins with the following meet. The Pre-National Meet will be two weeks after this weekend's event and will allow the Bulldogs to whittle down their team to its championship rosters.


In its meets so far this season, UNC Asheville has developed its young, talented harriers on the men's side and strengthened the pack-running of the women.


Senior Emma Bussard has led the women in both races this year, with Melanie Kulesz, a redshirt junior, and freshman Kelsey Rubino making up the top three. Two weeks ago, the Adidas Winthrop Invitational served as the Big South Conference preview meet, and UNC Asheville finished fifth.


The young men's runners had an 11th-place showing at the Winthrop Invitational despite being without freshman Jeremy Gower, who led UNC Asheville in the first meet of the season at Western Carolina. Sophomore Kevin Paradise, the team's top runner last season, led the Bulldogs in Gower's absence. Freshman Andy Thornburg has been the consistent third runner.


"I'm just really excited hosting a meet this year and am excited as I think we are putting out a team that the school can be proud of," Norman said. "The team is looking forward to showing everyone how good we are."


The men's race will begin at 9 a.m. over the 8K course, with the women's 5K starting at 10:20 a.m. Results will be available on