FAYETTEVILLE, NC - Two Fayetteville State runners will run at the Atlantic Regional in Cary, NC, on Saturday in the NCAA Division II Cross Country regional meet.
Ernest Hawkins, the top men's runner for the Broncos, and Tamikka Portee, the Lady Broncos' top women's runner, will take part in the regional race at the WakeMed Soccer Park. The men's 10-kilometer race will begin at 10 a.m. while the women's 6K race will begin at 11 a.m.
Both Broncos' runners will be taking part in their first regional meet.
"Each time you go to a competition, you go with the hope of winning," says Fayetteville State cross country coach James Williams
. "The opportunity for Ernest and Tamikka is for exposure and experience. I think they can both run competitively, but the competition level is so high that if they are able to move on to Nationals, it would be an outstanding feat."
To get there, Hawkins and Portee would have to finish as the top two runners after those runners who are members of the top two placing teams. It's a tall order, for sure.
"They would have to run their fastest times of the year, but both are capable," says Williams. "They're both good sprinters, and we've been working a lot of hills, and they know the course, so they have the chance to leapfrog a lot of people at the end."
Hawkins (Fr., Raleigh, NC) said he has enjoyed his first season running collegiately at Fayetteville State, and that the experience so far has enlightened him on the student-athlete he has the potential to become.
"I realized I can do a lot more than what I was able to do in high school," he says. "I really feel like I am moving toward my potential and after running at a higher level, that I'll be able to compete on that higher level."
Hawkins qualified for the regional meet after placing 17th overall at the CIAA Cross Country Championship on Oct. 20. Hawkins completed the 6K course in Cary in 28 minutes, 30.2 seconds to pace the Fayetteville State men's team.
"As a true freshman, running the times he's run has been phenomenal," says Williams.
Portee (Sr., Jacksonville, NC) reached the regional after claiming the 16th spot overall in the CIAA Championship. Portee covered the Cary 5K course in 21:27.5 to earn a trip to the Atlantic Regional.
"I wish I could have her back for another season," says Williams. "She's been great for us. I just wish I had her for more time."
Both Hawkins and Portee have been the class of their respective teams at Fayetteville State. In each of the Broncos' meets during the regular season, Hawkins and Portee were the first Fayetteville State runners to cross the finish line.