2012 Women’s Cross Country Sun Belt Champions
Women’s Conference Runner of the Year Katharine Showalter
Women’s Conference Coach of the Year Chris England
W All-Sun Belt First Team Katharine Showalter, Hannah Stefanoff
M All-Sun Belt First Team Valentin Poncelet
W All-Sun Belt Third Team Niamh Kearney, Jennifer Rubel
W All-South Region — Katharine Showalter
NCAA National Championship Qualifier— Katharine Showalter
Women’s Final USTFCCCA Region Ranking — No. 8 in South Region (as of Oct. 30)
W Sun Belt Runners of the Week Katharine Showalter (5; 9/5, 9/12, 9/28, 10/10, 10/17)
M Sun Belt Runners of the Week Valentin Poncelet (9/26), Austin Boetje (10/10)

W Sun Belt Team Finish — 1st out of 12 teams
M Sun Belt Team Finish — 7th out of 12 teams
W Sun Belt Preseason Predicted Finish — 7th
M Sun Belt Preseason Predicted Finish — 5th
W NCAA South Region Finish — 11th of 29 teams
M NCAA South Region Finish — 17th of 26 teams
W Team Victories — GSU Invite, West Georgia Invite, Jaguar Invite, Sun Belt Championship
M Team Victories — GSU Invite, Jaguar Invite
W Individual Victories Katharine Showalter (5; Clemson, GSU, West Georgia, Jaguar, Sun Belt)
M Individual Victories Austin Boetje (2; GSU, Jaguar)

ATLANTA — The 2012 season will be remembered as the year the women’s cross country team captured the first Sun Belt championship in Georgia State program history.

Despite being slotted to finish seventh in the Sun Belt preseason coaches’ poll, the Panthers made an immediate splash by winning the conference title in their first try. GSU brought home a handful of hardware from Bowling Green, Ky. following the conference meet on Oct. 27.

In addition to the team title, Katharine Showalter was named the Sun Belt Runner of the Year and Chris England was named Coach of the Year.

“We wanted to be ambassadors for the rest of the Georgia State programs,” said England. “We hope that this acts as a springboard for the rest of the individual sports and give hope for the team sports who have to wait for next year to join the Sun Belt. We just want to make everyone proud to be a part of GSU.”

Cross country was the first program to represent the Panthers in a Sun Belt competition since the school announced a move to the league in July 2012. Although GSU team sports will not be eligible to compete in the Sun Belt until the 2013-14 season, individual sports like cross country were able to join early this season.

The men’s team finished seventh out of 12 teams at the Sun Belt meet, led by Poncelet’s fifth-place finish. Tyler Tomy (25th) and Carlos Galindo (29th) also added top-30 finishes for Georgia State, who finished only 16 points out of fourth place. The men were picked to finish fifth by the preseason coaches’ poll.

Five Panthers were named to All-Conference teams. Showalter and Hannah Stefanoff were named to the All-Sun Belt first team for the women, while Poncelet did so for the men. Representing the Panthers on the women’s third team All-Conference were Niamh Kearney and Jennifer Rubel.

Showalter put together one of the best individual seasons in program history, becoming just the fourth female runner to qualify for a spot in the NCAA Championship race after coming in 12th at the Region meet.

At the national championship, Showalter placed 166th out of 253 runners. Her 6K time of 21:13.79 was the second fastest for a Georgia State competitor at the national meet.

“Any time you have someone competing in the national championship, it brings positive attention to your program,” said England. “Katharine really made a commitment to improve her training. She put in the hard work all year and made a lot of sacrifices.”

The women’s team topped out at No. 8 in the USTFCCCA South Region rankings after being ranked all eight weeks during the season. At the NCAA South Region meet, the women’s team finished 11th out of 29 teams, while the men came in 17th of 26.

During the course of the eight-meet season, the women’s team captured four team victories, while the men took home two. The women recorded a perfect score of 15 during two of these victories and came close by scoring 16 at a third.

Individually, Showalter finished in first place during five of those meets, while Austin Boetje did so twice.

Both teams defended their home turf at the 37th annual GSU Invite, the Panthers’ lone home meet of the season. The meet took place on Sept. 8 at Nash Farm Battlefield in Hampton, Ga.

Showalter secured five Sun Belt Runner of the Week awards out of seven opportunities during the season. The men’s team had two such award winners in Poncelet and Boetje. These seven conference weekly honors is a single-season high for the program, besting the six awards earned last season.

“The program over the last few years is only going in one direction and that is up,” said England. “When I took over at Georgia State three years ago, I had my work cut out for me. Each year the teams keep improving. We’ll just look to keep moving forward.”

Georgia State hopes that this early success can springboard the Panthers into their new conference. The GSU runners will soon have another chance to make an impact in the Sun Belt as they start competing in track and field during the 2013 season.

“The culture of the team is changing,” said England. “We will transition that motivation to the rest of the program. I know the track and field team is happy for the cross country team, but they also want to do their part and contribute to winning championships for Georgia State.”