The UTSA men’s and women’s cross country teams will begin the 2009 campaign at the Trinity Opener held at 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at Olmos Park.

The meet will feature men’s and women’s squads from UTSA and Trinity as well as the Texas Lutheran women.

The UTSA women return three letterwinners from last year’s team that posted five top-five finishes, including runner-up showings at the Texas State Invitational, Islander Splash and TLU Bulldog Invitational.

Senior Dana Mecke is back after a breakout campaign in 2008. The Smithson Valley High product won six consecutive races, capped by capturing the school’s first Southland Conference crown since 1996 to help the Roadrunners place fifth in the team standings.

Mecke was named the league’s Athlete of the Year and Student-Athlete of the Year and garnered SLC Athlete of the Week accolades five times during the season.

The sophomore duo of Kayla Pratt and Courtney Nelson gained valuable experience as true freshmen last year.

Pratt, who earned SLC co-Athlete of the Week honors alongside Mecke after the duo won the UTSA Opener, crossed as the Roadrunners’ second runner at six meets, including top-10 finishes at the Texas State Invitational and TLU Bulldog Invitational.

Pratt also collected All-America accolades in the 5,000 meters this summer at the U.S. Junior Championships. Nelson was in the UTSA top four in five events, highlighted by a 12th-place effort at the TLU Bulldog Invitational.

A trio of newcomers in senior transfer Pernilla Savestrand, a graduate student from Sweden who competed for South Florida the past three years, and freshmen Ashley Benes and Jessica Bitterly will round out the roster this fall.

The men welcome back nine runners, including seven letterwinners, from a squad that registered six top-six finishes in 2008, including runner-up showings at the Texas State and TLU Bulldog Invitationals.

Sophomore Layne Nixon, a native of The Woodlands, was the top finisher in five meets. He recorded top-10 efforts at the Texas State and TLU Bulldog Invitationals and Ricardo Romo Classic and placed a team-best 16th place at the Southland Conference Championships to help the Roadrunners finish sixth.

Senior Corey Vargas and junior Dominick Zucconi are the lone upperclassmen on a young, but experienced squad. Sophomore Brandon Chiuminetta, the squad’s top runner two seasons ago, returns after sitting out last fall with a leg injury, while sophomore Michael Cook crossed as the top Roadrunners at the Walt Disney World Classic and NCAA South Central Regional last year.

Other returnees include sophomores Albert Cardenas, Eric Doll, Ivan Garcia and Cole Reveal, while redshirt freshman Daniel Balbontin and true freshman Jim Stitt will look to contribute in their first season with the program.

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