RICHMOND, Va. - The final fall sport at VCU will take its mark this weekend, as the VCU Men's and Women's Cross Country teams will head to Williamsburg, Va. for the William & Mary Invitational.
Entering her third season at the helm of the men's and women's country teams, Nicole Cook has her squads poised for a successful 2012 season.
"I just want us to do well overall as a team," Cook said. "I want everyone to succeed and accomplish their individual goals. I want us to come into the A-10 and make a good mark for cross country."
On the men's side this season, the Rams will have 16 runners that will all compete for the top five spots. The competition in practice will help Cook select her starters for each race.
"I am excited to see my top five, and we are getting close to knowing who that is," said Cook.
"As long as they can stay healthy I think we have a solid top five, and there will always be competition between the fourth through the sixth runner," Cook added.
For the women's team, there will be a lot of new faces running this season. Five freshmen are on the Rams' team, who are all still adjusting to college cross country.
"I think it's difficult when you transition from high school because you don't necessarily expect the time commitment to the team," Cook said. "I try to help them as much as I can along the way, but it's a part of growing up."
The women's squad will be led on the course this year by sophomores Niema Eaves and Erin Geraghty as well as freshmen Briana Krumholtz and Lindsey Bradshaw.
"I'm excited to see those four run," said Cook. "We still need a consistent fifth runner, but there is tough competition for the final starting spot."
Like all of the Rams' athletic teams, the cross country programs will enter the Atlantic 10 for the first time this season. Cook thinks there are advantages and is excited for the new opportunity for her runners.
"It's new," Cook said. "No one is expecting someone new to come in and do anything, so it gives us kind of the underdog mentality. I also think the athletes are excited about the new conference. I can tell that a lot of them want to make a good first impression in the A-10."
The move to the A-10 will also pose some challenges for the Rams, but Cook believes that it is just a matter becoming comfortable to the new conference.
"You don't know what to expect, but to me that doesn't really stop anything," Cook said. "There may be better competition there, or there may not be. It's brand new territory."
Even though the Rams start their season this weekend at the William & Mary Invitational, Cook wants her team to continue getting better every race.
"In the cross country season, we have certain things we focus on," Cook said. "I hope they will focus on those things [on Saturday] and continue to get better on their way to the conference meet."