CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte 49ers men’s and women’s cross country teams look to the course in the 2013 season and make a statement in their first year back in Conference USA.  Both the coaches and student-athletes have high expectations for success on and off the course.  The 49ers men’s team won the Conference USA title back in 2002 for its only conference championship to date.  The 49ers women’s team has made a run at the conference championship but the title has eluded it since its three-peat in the Metro Conference from 1992-94.  The 49ers men’s team returns 17 from last year with one newcomer, whereas the women’s team returns 13 with three newcomers.

“Going back to Conference USA is especially special for me, as I was on the 2002 team that won the Conference USA cross country team title, so I really want to bring back the success we had within the conference while I was competing for Charlotte,” head cross country coach Ed Schlichter said. “We’re thrilled to have put together another great schedule for both the men’s and women’s cross country teams this year.”

Schlichter finished fifth and was the team’s No. 2 runner that year, helping the Niners register a score of 53 points to beat second-place Marquette (73 points). In his senior year, 2004, he was named the Conference USA Athlete of the Year for cross country after a performance at the NCAA Southeast Regional. In doing so, he became the first men’s cross country runner in school history to get the honor.

The Niners start off the season with the Gamecock Invitational in Columbia, S.C. on August 30 before taking a month off and hosting the Charlotte Cross Country Invitational at McAlpine Park on September 28. Last year 35 universities, with close to 1,000 runners, competed in the Charlotte Cross Country Invitational. “Our Charlotte Cross Country Invitational has grown into a staple within the Southeast and I’ve enjoyed seeing it grow into such a competitive meet and have so many outstanding schools participate.”

Other than the Niners’ home course, Charlotte looks to compete on five new courses this year. The 49ers head to Bethlehem, Pa., for the Paul Short Run on October 5. The Niners return home on October 11 for the Royals Challenge, held at McAlpine Park. 

Charlotte then heads to the Indiana State campus in Terre Haute, Ind., for the NCAA Pre-National Meet held on October 19.  “Paul Short and Pre-Nationals will be key meets to see teams from outside our region and get a look at some of our new conference mates as well as some top national competition.”

The Niners head to Denton, Texas, for the Conference USA Championships, hosted by North Texas on November 2. 

After hosting the NCAA Southeast Regionals last fall, this year’s regionals will be held in Charlottesville, Va., and will be hosted by Virginia on November 15. Following the NCAA Southeast Regionals, the NCAA Cross Country Championships return to Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind., on November 23.

“We’re by no means the favorites to win Conference USA, but we will be giving everyone a run for it. I love this team, I love their work ethic and I love our potential. The season can’t come fast enough.”