ATLANTA - Competition in its first-ever Sun Belt Championship will culminate the six-race regular season schedule for Georgia State's men's and women's cross country teams.
GSU will be an associate member of the Sun Belt in cross country this season and fully join that league in July of 2013 with the rest of the athletics program. The Panthers will compete for titles at the Sun Belt Championship on Saturday, Oct. 27 at Western Kentucky in Bowling Green.
"We appreciate the Sun Belt allowing GSU to enter a year earlier than planned and our goal is to make an immediate impact in our first season in that league," head coach Chris England said. "Without much research yet, I think our women's team can be strong contenders for the championship and our men's team could make a strong showing."
The lone home meet on the schedule is the 37th running of the GSU Invitational on the Panthers' home course at Nash Farm Battlefield in Hampton, Ga. on Saturday, Sept. 8.
"With the Division III South Regional on this course this year, we expect a lot of area teams wanting to participate to test the course," England noted. "This meet is a little earlier and is always a good tune-up for the season ahead. The GSU staff and the Nash Farm folks put on a great show for last year's CAA Championship on this course and we'll put a little emphasis on making it special for this race, too."
Georgia State will be challenged early and often with the seven-race regular season schedule that starts at the Clemson Invitational on Friday, Aug. 31, then includes the Vanderbilt Commodore Classic in Nashville on Sept. 15 and the top-flight Chile Pepper Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark. on Oct. 13.
"That Clemson opener will be a great experience against some top teams and the meet at Vanderbilt also includes our first look at several Sun Belt teams," England added. "The Chile Pepper Invitational is one of the biggest meets in the nation with a lot of the big schools like Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A &M, Arkansas, LSU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, as well as five Sun Belt schools, so that will really be a great event for our team to challenge ourselves and do our best."
GSU will compete in two other area races at the West Georgia Invitational in Carrollton and the Augusta State Jaguar Invitational in Evans, Ga.
"After finishing third in the women's CAA Championship and returning nine runners from that team, as well as finishing fourth in the men's CAA race with an All-CAA runner returning, we are excited to welcome the teams back when classes start on August 20," England said. 'The women's team finished in the top 15 in the Region and return a pair of all-conference runners, so they team should push each other hard in practices to maintain their ranking," England added.
Georgia State will also run in the postseason NCAA South Regional race in Tallahassee, Fla. on Friday, Nov. 9.
Another bit of good news in joining the Sun Belt this year means the cross country and track runners will be able to compete in the Indoor Track Championships hosted by this league, unlike the CAA which did not have one.