Track & Cross Country: Reports For Fall Camp; Releases 2018 Schedule
Matt Sullivan, Director of Athletics Communications
Louisiana looks to contend for SBC men's crown
Story LinksLAFAYETTE – With its first meet of the 2018 season set for the end of the month, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns men's and women's cross country team reported to campus on Monday heading into its season opener on Aug. 31 at the McNeese Opener.
Louisiana, which finished No. 14 in the 2017 Men's U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) South Central Regional poll, returns six runners from last season while bringing in a pair of highly-touted runners in freshmen Key Alfred and Hannes Burger.
"We have something to prove this year," head coach Lon Badeaux said. "We've given that to the kids because we were a really good team last year. We were ranked high in the (South Central) region and we under-performed at the (Sun Belt) conference meet. This year, we're going to train and compete with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder."
Despite the loss of four-time All-Sun Belt Conference performer Beau Robinson, the Ragin' Cajuns return a solid 1-2 punch in Kenyan runners Stanley Limoh and Jonathan Kimutai. Returning letterwinners Regan Lemaire, George Femmer, Andre Bellard and Conner Meche will look to continue in their development in helping fill out Louisiana's top-five lineup.
"We were better last year and we think we're a lot better this season," Badeaux said. "We've got a solid five and our 6, 7 and 8's are returning kids that should give us some solid depth. We should be again one of the better teams in the conference and one of the better team in the region. But we're going to be smart about it and not get ahead of ourselves."
The additions of Alfred, a two-time state cross country champion at nearby Carencro High, Burger and Solomon Brent will give Louisiana one of its deepest lineups heading into the 2018 season.
"What we did lose is a guy who is probably one of the best Louisiana runners in Beau Robinson," said Badeaux. "To take a local guy like Key who has the same type of (high school) accolades to step in there and be one of our key five guys. It's really important for us, because it keeps a little of that local flavor, but if we're going to win this year, it's all depend on whether Key can really make a step to that next level.
"Of course, getting another solid freshman in Hannes Burger who we are finding out is really good early on. We have high expectations for them, but they have to get used to competing against college athletes. We're really excited about the men's team. We think we can go five-deep and we think we can run with anybody."
On the women's side, a youthful Ragin' Cajuns squad that is dominated by freshmen and sophomores, will look to replace departed seniors Courtney Musgrove, Claire Hodges, Lindsay LaGarde and Courtney Broussard from last year's team with Musgrove finishing her career as a two-time, All-Sun Belt Conference performer.
"We're a little thin on the women's side after graduating four highly decorated seniors from last year," Badeaux said. "Most of them were school-record holders in one event or another. It's been a little difficult to try and replace those girls. The ones we have are very young, mostly freshmen and sophomores, and it's going to be a little tough sledding for them because of their youth. But they do have some talent, so it's how they develop into that second year of the program. Can they take the places of the seniors that left? That's tough to ask of them."
The team's lone senior – Hailey Hesterman – will look to fill the void at the No. 1 spot for Louisiana with Alexa Breaux, Ally McCulley and Teresa Bruning returning to the lineup along with redshirt freshman Alivia Johnson and true freshman Kate Ferguson.
"Hailey took a step in the right direction last year and really made some strides," said Badeaux. "We expect her to be our No. 1 runner. We do have some talent and there is a lot that they can achieve."
Louisiana opens its 2018 cross country season on August 31 when it travels to Lake Charles for the McNeese Opener. Meets at South Alabama's Azalea City Classic (Sept. 7), the McNeese Cowboy Stampede (Sept. 29) and Texas A&M's Arturo Barrios Invitational (Oct. 13) will lead the Ragin' Cajuns into the Sun Belt Conference Championships, hosted by South Alabama on Oct. 27.
"We start off with an easy trip to McNeese to get our feet wet," said Badeaux. "We can check out the course (in Mobile) where the conference meet is being held before eventually going to Texas A&M, which will host the (South Central) regional. There, we'll get into a high-quality meet and we'll find out what we're made of against a field of regional and nationally-ranked programs.
"The schedule is set up perfectly for us to achieve all of our goals this year. It's perfect for what we're trying to accomplish as a team."
The NCAA South Central Regional Championships are set for Nov. 9 in College Station, Texas with the NCAA Championships scheduled for Nov. 17 in Madison, Wis.
"The NCAA changed the rules in that they require only four meets, and that actually works better for us," said Badeaux. "It allows us to set up a schedule to really train for that goal of winning the conference championship ... and that is our ultimate goal in winning the conference meet."
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