NEW FACES: Felexia Brasswell (Jr.), Daniqua Dye (Fr.), Ja’Barra Eason (Fr.), Imani Harris-Quillen (Fr.), Amy Hicks (Fr.).
THEY’RE BACK: Janessa Benn (Sr., did not compete in 2012), Roshel Bygraves (Sr., did not compete in 2012), Janay Ferrell (So.), Brittanie Morris (Jr., did not compete in 2012).
KEY LOSSES: Ariana Betts, Samira Johnson, Kristin Rush, Cameron Shackleford.
STRENGTHS: Benn and Ferrell are strong No. 1 and No. 2 runners.
WEAKNESSES: They’re looking to develop depth as the season progresses.
EXPECTATIONS: The Aggies are not as strong as some of the top teams in the MEAC yet, but they could show vast improvement this season.
PREVIEW: When Duane Ross assess his 2013 North Carolina A&T women’s cross country team, he comes away with the realization that his ladies are not quite at the championship level.
“I expect them to compete,” said Ross, the Aggies director of track and field programs. “I expect them to do the best they can. I expect each race to be better than the one they ran before it. But we are definitely in a rebuilding year for our women’s cross country team. We are getting there, but we are not quite there yet.”
Despite the acknowledgement of trying to retool things on the women’s side, Ross wants to put his team in a position to finish in the top 3 at the MEAC championships in October. There are some early roadblocks to that happening. Cameron Shackleford and Nicole Robinson were going to be counted on to add some experience to the Aggies lineup, but unexpectedly did not to return to the team this season which makes Ross’ team even younger.
The Aggies do get senior Janessa Benn back this season. She was one of the Aggies’ top runners in 2011. She finished 16th at the 2011 MEAC championships and ran a personal-best 18:47.44 at the NCCU Invitational on Oct. 15, 2011. Sophomore Janay Ferrell should also be a low scorer for the Aggies.
Ferrell was consistently the Aggies second-best runner last season behind Kristin Rush. She finished the 5k MEAC championships in 19:58.25 to finish 20th. She also finished seventh at the Robert Shumake HBCU Challenge in Cary with a personal-best 19:47.
“We’re definitely going to rely on Janessa and Janay quite a bit,” said Ross. “We are getting better each day. Hopefully, we can get some experience in our early meets and then be a very competitive team toward the end of the season.”
The Aggies will bring in senior Roshel Bygraves and junior Felexia Brasswell, athletes who are mostly known for track and field, to add depth to the women’s cross country team. Freshman Imani Harris-Quillen could also make a difference as the season goes forward.
A&T opens at the Western Carolina Cross Country Invitational on Aug. 30. The Aggies will compete in some familiar meets – the NCCU/A&T Relay meet on Sept. 7 and the Elon Invitational on Sept. 14 – before competing at UNC Charlotte on Sept. 28.
A week later the Aggies will compete in Cary at the Robert Shumake HBCU Challenge, an annual meet. On Oct. 19, the Aggies return to the Christopher Newport Cross Country Invite before trying to meet the team goal of finishing in the top 3 at the MEAC championships on Oct. 26.