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LOCAL COLLEGE ROUNDUP: Darton men’s, women’s cross country heads to nationals; Lady Cavs hoops cruises to third victory; ASU volleyball falls short of title

Led by head coach Bruce Skiles, far left, the Darton women's and men's cross country teams head to Whittington, Ill., today to compete in the NJCAA National Championships.

Led by head coach Bruce Skiles, far left, the Darton women's and men's cross country teams head to Whittington, Ill., today to compete in the NJCAA National Championships.

ALBANY — Darton State College will compete in the 2012 NJCAA Division I Cross Country Championships today in Whittington, Ill., where members of the Lady Cavaliers hope to break a school record set in 2007.

The women’s collegiate 5K begins at 10 a.m., at Rend Lake Golf Course, where Bainbridge native Tabitha Payne, then a Darton freshman, set a school record 5K time of 19:37 during the program’s inaugural season and first trip to nationals.

“Our girls are coming on,” Darton head cross country coach Bruce Skiles said. “I have three, maybe four of them that could do it.”

Four of the Lady Cavaliers ran the Region XVII Championship meet in under 21 minutes, and Skiles believes that on a fast course such as Rend Lake — and with the very large pool of runners competing with the Lady Cavaliers at nationals — times can only improve.

“This is the fastest team we’ve ever had at Darton,” Skiles said. “If all of my runners have a good day (today), we could do very well.”

The men’s collegiate 8K is scheduled to follow the women’s race at 11 a.m. Freshman Jared Richmond will look to break his own 8K record — a staggering 26:04 set at the region championship just two weeks ago.

“Jared won’t be the only one who could run under 26 minutes (today),” Skiles said. “Cody (Mallchok), Hank (Campbell) and Nick (Mascardo) are all capable too.”

The Cavs and Lady Cavs also hope to be Darton’s first cross country team to finish among the Top 10 at nationals.

DARTON WOMEN DESTROY SOUTHERN CRESCENT, 107-34: Four players scored in double figures Friday for the Darton women’s basketball team, which lambasted Southern Crescent Tech, 107-34, for the largest win since Lady Cavs coach Lea Henry took over the program last spring.

The Lady Cavs were led by Chanteniece Fann’s 22 points, while Michelle Mitchell added 16 and Iesha Bonner and Crystal Reed each scored 12.

“Everybody got to play, and everybody contributed. It was a good win,” said Henry, whose Lady Cavs improved to 3-1.

The Lady Cavs held Southern Crescent Tech to four field goals in the first half and took a 50-14 lead into halftime.

Darton plays again Wednesday at Atlanta Metro State College in the Region XVII opener.

ASU VOLLEYBALL FALLS JUST SHORT OF CONFERENCE TITLE: After seven matches in three days — playing all but one from the losers’ bracket — the Albany State volleyball team found itself on the cusp of the conference tournament title Friday in a winner-take-all final against Clark Atlanta.

But despite all that hustle just to get back to the championship after falling to Clark in a first-round stunner Wednesday, the Lady Rams fell just short, 16-14, in the fifth game, denying No. 1-seeded ASU the championship on its home floor. ASU finished runner-up for the third straight year.

“It’s tough to take, losing like this,” said ASU coach Robert Skinner, whose team finished 16-0 in conference play this season — including a regular-season sweep of Clark. “We fought as hard as we could, but we just ran out of gas. It hurts.”

ASU won two matches earlier Friday — one of them being a sweep of Clark — just to reach the title match, but after winning the opening game, ASU dropped two in a row before winning the fourth game and forcing a do-or-die Game 5.

ASU loses two senior starters: Jennifer Johnson and Adrienne Morris.