Dec. 10, 2008
ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - In its second season under the direction of head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert, the UCF cross country team established a number of firsts in 2008. The beginning of the season brought the opening of an on-campus course for the first time in the program's history, and with that the ability to host both the Knight Attack Challenge and the Black & Gold Invitational.
Along with the new course, the season served as the first for the runners under the guidance of assistant coaches Tyangela Sanders and Dennis Kozub. Both brought tremendous strengths and knowledge to the program, and the results of their coaching throughout the season were obvious.
Sanders came to UCF after a distinguished running career at the University of Tennessee and a successful eight years coaching top-notch high school athletes, including current UCF track and field runner Jackie Coward. Kozub was the main cog behind the design and construction of the new course and brought with him 34 years of coaching experience at various levels.
In the Knight Attack Challenge, the first meet on the new course on Sept. 5, UCF finished second behind only USF. Junior Erica Weitz (Morganville, N.J.) shattered her personal best and led the Knights with a sixth-place finish.
The following weekend UCF again played the role of host as teams were welcomed to campus for the Black & Gold Invitational. Not only did senior Allison Palmer (Oviedo, Fla.) win her first career race, but the Knights claimed six of the top eight spots to dominate the event and earn the team victory.
In early October the Knights were back to their winning ways with a dominating performance at the FLRunners.com Invitational. This time is was another senior, Shantile Blackburn (Brooklyn, N.Y.), leading UCF and the field across the finish line. With a time of 17:47, Blackburn won the race with the second-best time in the program's history. Five of the runners set new personal bests at the meet, and three Knights finished in the top five as UCF claimed the title.
Overall, the team had an impressive season, finishing in the top five in five of its eight meets. The Knights had two wins on the year and finished in the top five four times. On the season, seven of the UCF runners set new personal bests.
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