Demons and Lady Demons open season Friday at Stephen F. Austin

Kirstin Elrod and Isabella Hudson lead the Lady Demons in the first meet of the season CREDIT: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services

NSU’s men’s and women’s cross country teams start their seasons Friday evening with a dual meet against Stephen F. Austin.

Competition for the SFA Lumberjack Opener begins at 7:10 p.m. with a 5,000 meter race for the men while the women kick off their 2-mile race at 7:30 p.m.

Motel 6

First year head coach De’Shalyn Jones is excited about seeing her team compete for the first time as well as the chance to scope out the competition.

“It will be the first time running at SFA for a lot of the team,” Jones said. “It will be a good opportunity to see what to expect from another team in the conference and from our team.”

The Demons and Lady Demons both finished 10th in last season’s Southland Conference Championship, one spot higher than they finished the previous season. SFA finished in the top 4 in both races.

Some notable returners for the Demons include junior Darius Groves, who finished in the top 50 in the final meet last season, and fellow junior Yannik Gerland, who finished 52nd.

The women are led by junior Isabella Hudson, who finished in the top 40, and sophomore Kirstin Elrod, who finished 55th.

Jones, an accomplished sprinter at NSU who nine Southland Conference individual titles, noted the importance of veteran leadership, especially for a relatively young team like the Lady Demons.

“Right now, we only have one senior on the team, the rest are mostly juniors and freshman,” Jones said. “We have a lot of really good freshmen coming in, and they get a chance to learn from experienced runners like Izzy (Hudson).

“It’s exciting to see them push each other through practice, and now we’ll get to see them push each other through the meet. Hopefully, it will be a good confidence booster.”

As far as her expectations for her runners, Jones is optimistic.

“I really expect for the returners to start off from where they left last year, or at least around the same spot,” Jones said. “If we have some people set PR’s, that would be lovely, but I really just want to use this meet as a basis and a good standard for the rest of the season.”

The Demons and Lady Demons compete again in Ruston on Sept. 14 in the Louisiana Tech Mook Triple-Duals.