The Florida Southern women's cross country team starts off the 2018 season this Saturday at 7:30 a.m. with the Holloway Park Preseason Festival in Lakeland. The Moccasins will be under the direction of first-year head coach Stephanie Bylander who had served as an assistant coach on both the men's and women's teams at Florida Southern for the previous three seasons.
"Working with the women's team the last three years as an assistant coach has allowed for me to come into this season prepared to help them to maximize the potential that we've seen since 2015," says Bylander.
"The seniors this year are hungry to achieve the goal that they've worked toward since their freshman year and that's to put an FSC women's cross country team back at the National Championships. We have a great mix of veterans and newcomers who should make up our top 5-7," continued Bylander.
Florida Southern is ranked fifth in the USTFCCCA South Region preseason poll after placing 11th at the 2017 NCAA South Region Championship which was held on the same Holloway Park course.
Battling for the Moccasins in the top five should be Addison Cantor, Aleksa and Ysabella Guerra, Hannah Flemming and newcomer Alayna Goll. Red-shirt junior Hannah Nelson, who was Florida Southern's top finisher in each race last season, is currently out with an injury.
Cantor did not run cross country for the Moccasins her freshman season, but did participate in the Spring track season, turning in the top three fastest times for any Moccasin in the 5,000-meter race and also set a school record in the 10,000-meter.
Senior Aleksa Guerra was one of the Moccasins top four runners in each race last season, twice placing as the second Florida Southern runner across the finish line. Her twin sister, Ysabella, will be competing in her first year on the cross country team after serving as a manager/student assistant coach for FSC in 2017.
Flemming, a sophomore, was the second FSC runner in two races last season, including the Sunshine State Conference Championship, and was in the top four Moccasin finishers in two other races.
Goll was the All-Area Cross Country Runner of the Year for Estero High last fall and was a three-time State qualifier. She was also named to the All-Area team as a sophomore and junior at Estero High.
Seniors Amanda Slattery, Jolene Vergauwen, Kassidy Watkins, and Emily Williams, join juniors Anna Brook Opalinski and Allison Wright to give the Moccasins needed depth. Bylander will have an arsenal to choose from in 2018 with 19 runners on the squad.
Following the Holloway Park Festival, the Moccasins will compete at the Embry-Riddle Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla. on Sept. 15 and then head to Gainesville, Fla. to compete at the UF Mountain Dew Invitational on Sept. 22.
The 2018 SSC Championship will be held in Daytona Beach on Nov. 3 with the NCAA South Regional returning to Holloway Park on Nov. 17.