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Alabama to host championship

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On Friday the Crimson Tide will host universities from around the conference in the SEC Championship meet for the first time in 14 years. CW File

Matthew Wilson

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For the first time in 14 years, the Crimson Tide will host universities from around the conference in the SEC Championship meet Friday. Ten athletes from both the women’s and men’s teams will compete for the Crimson Tide.

“I think we will have a home field advantage because we run that course all the time,” Waggoner said. “We know every route. We know how it’s going to feel and when to push.”

While the team has a home advantage, coach Dan Waters said the course can be tricky to navigate. The course has small hills that may seem easy during warm ups but can be taxing after running them several times. Waters said he has been working on strategy with each runner.

“There’s 20 strategies for 20 runners,” Waters said. “How you tell each one of your athletes how to do it is really the art of coaching.”

For senior Matt Airola, it will be his last time running at the conference championship. The California native said he has been working on breathing techniques and preparing mentally for the race. Having suffered a cramp at the Crimson Classic, Airola said he is ready to bounce back and push himself Friday.

“When it comes down to SECs, you only get one chance at this,” Airola said. “It’s not like a game where you have four quarters. You have one race. You have to do all you can the entire way.”

Airola said he hopes Friday will be the defining moment of his cross country career, and he hopes to leave the team on a high note.

“I really don’t want this to end,” Airola said. “The main thing I’m going to do is take it all in when I’m out there. It will be nice to finish on a high note finish my cross country career here at Alabama.”

If the team had a theme song, Waggoner said, it would be “Started From The Bottom” by Drake. She said the coaches started from scratch and over the past four years have turned the program into a competitive team.

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Alabama to host championship