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Cross Country opens 2012 season this Friday

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The Birmingham-Southern cross country teams begin their 2012 campaign this Friday evening with a short trip south to the University of Montevallo for the Early Bird Classic.

Both the men and women will compete on the 5k course. The women's race will begin at 6:30 p.m., and the men at 7 p.m.

This week marks the end of pre-season camp and the beginning of the 2012 season. With nine returners and eight newcomers, the team this year looks to improve even more after a successful 2011 campaign. Seniors Robert Willett and Jessica Thornton are expected to lead the way for the Panthers.

This year's schedule includes eight meets that will be held across the southeast. In addition to meets with conference members Sewanee and Berry College during the year, the Panthers will make early September trips to both Auburn University on the 7th and Vanderbilt University on the 15th. These two high-profile meets will give 'Southern the opportunity to showcase their talents with some of the nation's best programs.

The championship portion of the season will begin when the Panthers head to the inaugural Southern Athletic Association Championship on Oct. 27 in Jackson, Miss. Birmingham-Southern will then travel to Atlanta to compete in the NCAA south region meet on Nov. 10, hosted by Emory University.

Now in the second full year of NCAA Division III eligibility, the team is poised to begin a new tradition of success.

Head Coach Kenneth Cox, who enters his fifth season on the Hilltop, had this to say on the upcoming season. "We are ready to kick off the 2012 season of cross country! Our men and women have been working hard this summer and I am looking forward to getting off to a great start for our team. We have a great group of returners that have been stepping up all summer, and with the addition of our incoming freshmen we are confident that it will be a much improved season from last year."