AUGUSTA, GA – The University of North Georgia was declared the unanimous choice to capture the 2017 Peach Belt Conference women's cross country championship in a poll of the league's head coaches released on Monday. The Nighthawks captured all 10 first-place votes available for maximum 100 point score. Augusta was in second with Flagler third, UNC Pembroke fourth, Georgia College fifth and Columbus State sixth. Clayton State, Georgia Southwestern, Francis Marion, Lander and USC Aiken rounded out the voting.
North Georgia is the preseason favorite for the first time in program history after finishing in second place in each of the last three PBC Championships. The Nighthawks also ran fifth at the NCAA Southeast Regional last season. For 2017, head coach Tom Williams returns six seniors and juniors, including All-Conference senior Brittany Truitt. Truitt will have the opportunity to become only the 11th women's cross country runner in league history to be named All-Conference all four years after finishing third at the PBC last season and 16th at the NCAAs. Junior Makayla Ellis also returns after finishing second on the team at both the PBC and NCAA events.
Augusta finished third at the 2016 PBC Championships and were seventh at the NCAA regional. The Jaguars return four seniors for 2017 including Lara Way, who was named All-Conference after leading the team at the PBC Championships with a 10th-place finish. Seniors Diana Petrmichlova and Olivia Rodriguez also return along with juniors Macy Hayes and McKenzie Knudsen.
Flagler had an impressive 2016 campaign as they ran fourth at the PBC Championships and eighth at the NCAA regionals. The 2013 conference champions return six runners from last year's team including junior Heloise Duffie de Tassigny, who ran 16th at the PBC and was the first Saint across the line at the NCAAs. Also returning is junior Lauren Penkala who ran third on the team at the PBC and NCAA.
UNC Pembroke finished just six points behind Flagler at the 2016 PBC Championship and were 10th at the NCAA Regional. The Braves will debut seven freshmen in 2017, but do return veterans including Kristin Cain, who was named All-Conference last year and sophomore Michaela Reynolds ran her fastest 6k at the NCAAs, finishing 42nd.
The 2017 preseason poll is listed below as selected by the league's head coaches. Teams were given 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for second and so on. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
2017 PBC Women's Cross Country
Preseason Coaches Poll