The race for the Sunshine State Conference cross-country title runs through St. Petersburg, where Eckerd College will be host for the event today. The men's race, a 10K run, begins at 8:30 a.m. with the women's race, a 5K run (3.1 miles), scheduled for a 9:30 a.m. start. The course is on the Eckerd campus with the start/finish area located in front of the McArthur Physical Education Center.
The men's 10K includes two laps around the perimeter of the campus with an additional .2-mile half-loop behind the gym at the end of the second lap to the finish. The women's race consists of one lap around the campus with the finish coming in front of the gym.
According to Eckerd men's coach Wes Koenig, the University of Tampa should be favored among the men's team, although Eckerd, the defending conference champion, has the talent to pull an upset. The Tritons are paced by Scott Bransford, a three-time all-conference runner.
Tampa coach Peter Brust agreed.
"Eckerd should be the favorite in the women's race while we should challenge Florida Tech and Eckerd for the men's title," Brust said.
Gunnar Svendsen is the runner to watch for the Tampa men.
Svendsen, a sophomore from Point Pleasant, N.J., made an immediate impact for Tampa when he joined the team in time for the third meet of the year, the UT Invitational. He ran the Horizon Park course in 26:58, best of all SSC runners.
The Spartans finished second in the meet, behind Tampa College, but ahead of Eckerd, Florida Southern, Saint Leo and Rollins.
FIT finished one place ahead of UT at the Florida Intercollegiate Championships at the University of South last weekend, but Svendsen did not run. He is expected to compete today.
No SSC school has finished ahead of the Spartans this year when Svendsen has run. Florida Southern's Brian DeAngelis was the top male finisher among SSC schools at the meet.
Tampa's other top male runners are Dave Shilkitus, Mark Wilcox, Tony Holcomb and Gary Williams.
Linda Cassella is UT's top women's runner. The sophomore from Belville, N.J., has been the top finisher for the team in every meet this year. Her best time was 20:34 at the Saint Leo Invitational Sept. 15.
Luci Ladd, a junior from Fort Lauderdale, has placed second in every meet for the Spartans, with a best time of 20:45 at Saint Leo.
Eckerd's Kim Fagen, who placed second at the 1989 SSC meet behind UT's Maureen Fusco (who has since graduated), is the favorite for medalist honors.