By (Cody Estremera)

For Hannah Waggoner, 2016 is her last chance to compete in a NCAA regional. The past three years has seen Waggoner change from the fresh-faced new recruit into the role of the sage veteran on the women’s cross country team. As the lone senior, she has 12 incoming freshmen looking up to her for guidance.

Three strikes and you’re out, but that’s a different sport. For three years, The Crimson Tide has placed third in the NCAA regional 
competition. This year, Waggoner and her team are looking to make it to nationals.

“I definitely feel more motivated than any year I’ve run,” Waggoner said. “I have been close to NCAAs and that has left a bitter taste in my mouth. Above all, I want the team to make it to NCAAs.”

On paper, coach Adam Tribble said this should be the best team yet. The 25 person roster is composed of 13 upperclassmen and 12 freshmen, giving the team something it has not had for some time–depth.

“It’s a big roster,” Tribble said. “It’s a much deeper roster than we have ever had. It raises everyone’s game. You can only take a certain amount of people to a meet. At the end of the day, if you want to be the best you can be, you can’t be afraid of competition either at a meet or practice. I think it helps to raise the effort it takes to succeed.”

Waggoner doesn’t feel pressured being the only senior and hopes the freshmen can grow into vital roles on the team.

“I would like to step up into a leadership role since we have so many incoming freshmen,” she said. “I want to be there for them and be someone they can look up to.”

The team has a good mix of 
younger athletes and veterans. Out of the 25 athletes, seven of the 13 returning players have been on the team for more than two years.

“I think the experience is great,” Tribble said. “It’s hard the first time you go to do something. The girls that are coming back have made some good progress, and we have a good group coming in.”

The entire program is expecting the team to do well this season, but for now all the runners can do is 
prepare for the first meet of the season on Sept. 3 in Memphis, Tennessee.

“It sounds as a whole like they’ve done a really good job,” Tribble said. “The freshmen have used what they’ve heard and are applying it over the summer. The returners have taken everything to a whole 
different level. It is a team sport, but at the end of the day, it’s an individual sport that makes up the team. I’m excited about where they are.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports