By Tony Casey 

ROCK HILL, S.C. - The UNC Asheville men's and women's cross country teams, along with 30 other schools, will preview the Big South Cross Country Championship course at Winthrop University's Adidas Cross Country Invitational Saturday morning.


For the Bulldogs, it will be their first run at the championship distances this season, with the men running the 8,000-meter course, and the women on the 5,000-meter course. This is something that head coach Jesse Norman is excited about for his athletes, who will use the results as an indicator for the rest of the season.


"I'm real excited about this meet as it will be the first 5K and 8K for both programs.  It will be nice to get a gauge on how good we are or can be this year and where we stand at this time both within the conference and the regional level," Norman said. "This will be our first big test of the season. For both programs we want to see a top-ten finish."


The women finished second and the men fourth two weeks ago in their first meet of the season, the Western Carolina Invitational  With the addition of one of his top runners, Norman is looking to build upon his women's team performance and turn heads within the Big South Conference.


"We will be bringing back Erin Dalton on the women's side. Our tempos and workouts have been progressing very nicely with each one getting a little faster than the previous one."


Last year, Asheville ultimately placed ninth at the Big South Championships. This year, they return four of their top six runners from that meet. That, along with an injection of a contingent of promising freshmen should result in big improvement.


After their fourth-place finish in their season opener over 5,000 meters, the Bulldog men will be exposing the majority of their men to the 8,000-meter distance for the first time. Seven of the 13 Bulldog runners are in their first year of college.


Winthrop's course is one that Asheville hasn't seen before, and Norman is looking for his runners to get a feel for it so they can tackle it later on in championship season.


"The big focus is to get an idea of any changes we need to make with our training to help with our preparations for the championship meet later in the season," Norman said. "The course is a rolling course but is one that is supposed to be decently quick.  We've never run there before so this will be our opportunity to get a preview of the conference championship course."


The men's race will be the first of the day, at 9:00 a.m., with the women's following at 9:45 a.m. Results will be posted on and