Friday, October 2, 2009

Charlotte Invitational: Transformation to a Premier Race

When the cross country team laces up their shoes today in the Charlotte Invitational at McAlpine Park they will be facing off in the largest cross country meet that the 49ers have ever hosted. Over 20 teams have travelled to the Queen City for the meet with eight conferences being represented and a field that is nearing 500 runners.

Cross Country coach Ed Schlichter described the race as “one of the premier races in the southeast this weekend.”

In only three years, the Charlotte Invitational has transformed from a meet with only four teams competing to a race packed with regionally ranked squads from Division I, Division II and NAIA. Prior to the Charlotte Invitational, the 49ers hosted the Charlotte Relays in which two runners would pair up to run a relay. From 2000-2006, Charlotte eight relay titles totaling from the men and women’s team.

(Coach Ed Schlichter took third in the 2004 Charlotte Relay)

The largest meet prior to this year was last year’s Bojangles Invitational that hosted nine teams and the 2008 Atlantic 10 Championship with 14 squads running. In the inaugural year of the Charlotte Invitational only four teams competed with Charlotte taking home both the men’s and women’s title. In the years of the Charlotte Relays the largest field six was eight teams in 2003 with most years featuring three-to-five teams.

This year’s meet is set to be special for the 49ers as four regionally-ranked D-I teams will compete for the title of best team. Charlotte will have a clear cut advantage considering the 49ers are very impressive in home meets sweeping the events five of the last nine years by taking both the men’s and women’s titles (except for last year’s A-10 Title, which doesn’t count as a home meet).

With 41 other cross country meets getting underway this weekend, Charlotte will be one of the top spots for premier running as the 49ers look to protect their home course and sweep the competition.

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