2017 Conference Carolinas Women's Cross Country Preview and Runners to Watch

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The 2017 Conference Carolinas Women's Cross Country preseason poll has been released. University of Mount Olive will enter the season as the favorite to win the Conference Carolinas Women's Cross Country Championship, according to Conference Carolinas coaches.

1. University of Mount Olive: The Trojans nabbed eight first-place votes and a total of 89 points to be named the favorite in 2017 by Conference coaches.

Mount Olive will be looking for its third straight Conference Carolinas Women's Cross Country Championship in 2017.

The Trojans will have a good shot at the three-peat, as they return Leah Hanle for her sophomore season. Hanle racked up a number of awards in 2016, which included earning All-America honors at nationals, winning the NCAA Division II Southeast Region individual title and the Conference Carolinas Runner and Freshman of the Year awards.

Runners to Watch:

  • *Leah Hanle (So.)
  • Meredith Lorient (So.)
  • Celine Ritter (Fr.)

2. Limestone College: The Saints rank second in the poll with 83 points and two first-place votes from coaches.

Limestone finished second in last year's Cross Country Championship and return All-Conference Carolinas runner Sarah Rutto for the 2017 season.

Runners to Watch:

  • *Sarah Rutto (Jr.)

3. North Greenville University: The Crusaders of North Greenville collected 74 points to enter the year ranked third.

North Greenville returns All-Conference Carolinas runner Cori Small, who should be a key in helping NGU build on its third-place team finish in 2016.

Runners to Watch:

  • Kaleigh Roach (Jr.)
  • *Cori Small (So.)

4. Belmont Abbey College: The Crusaders of Belmont Abbey are preseason ranked fourth after racking up 64 points.

Belmont Abbey turned in a fifth-place finish at the Cross Country Championship in 2016. The All-Conference Carolinas duo of Annie Hetzel and Hannah Zenker return for their sophomore campaigns and could help propel the Crusaders to a top-three finish in 2017.

Runners to Watch:

  • *Annie Hetzel (So.)
  • Julia Otranto (Jr.)
  • *Hannah Zenker (So.)

5. Barton College: The Bulldogs received 57 points from Conference coaches to debut at fifth in the 2017 poll.

Barton returns All-Conference Carolinas runner Sharon Kiptoo and will look to improve on its sixth-place finish in last year's Cross Country Championship.

Runners to Watch:

  • *Sharon Kiptoo (Sr.)

6. Southern Wesleyan University: The Saints tallied 53 points and are in sixth-place to open 2017. 

Southern Wesleyan placed seventh last year in its Conference Carolinas postseason debut and will look to build on that finish in 2017.

Runners to Watch:

  • Hanan Balawi (So.)
  • Alana Grant (Sr.)
  • Kyra Hood (Fr.)

7. King University: The Tornado was tabbed seventh after collecting 42 points from Conference coaches.

King notched an eighth-place finish in 2016 and will bank on All-Conference Carolinas runner Kaitlin Rivera to lead the team in 2017.

Runners to Watch:

  • Hannah Kusmierz (So.)
  • Audrey McCormick (So.)
  • *Kaitlin Rivera (So.)

8. Converse College: The Valkyries received 34 points and enter the season ranked eighth.

Converse turned in a ninth-place in last year's Cross Country Championship.

Runners to Watch:

  • Jane Macsay (Sr.)
  • Autumn Stone (Sr.)

9. Lees-McRae College: The Bobcats garnered 26 points from Conference coaches to enter the season ranked ninth.

Lees-McRae finished 10th in the 2016 Conference Carolinas Cross Country Championship.

Runners to Watch:

  • Sarah Bowman (So.)
  • Kaitlyn Gearing (Sr.)
  • Jordyn Halvorsen (Jr.)

10. Erskine College: The Fleet closes out the poll in 10th after earning 14 points from coaches. 

Runners to Watch:

  • Allie Crout (Fr.)
  • Makayla Gleen (So.)
  • Ally Sorrenson (Sr.)

*denotes 2016 All-Conference Carolinas selection


2017 Women's Cross Country Preseason Poll

School (first-place votes) Total
1. Mount Olive (8) 89
2. Limestone (2) 83
3. North Greenville 74
4. Belmont Abbey 64
5. Barton 57
6. Southern Wesleyan 53
7. King 42
8. Converse 34
9. Lees-McRae 26
10. Erskine 14


Conference Carolinas is a NCAA Division II athletics conference made up of 11 teams from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. These institutions consist of: Barton College, Belmont Abbey College, Converse College, Emmanuel College, Erskine College, King University, Lees-McRae College, Limestone College, University of Mount Olive, North Greenville University, and Southern Wesleyan University. Emmanuel College is currently completing the NCAA Membership Process and will be fully competing in league championships in the near future.