Carroll and Lewis-Clark State may share the lead in the top-heavy Frontier Conference, but the NAIA cross country powers are relatively foreign to each other.

They face each other just once a year, typically, at the conference championship. The 2015 edition is Friday at Hickory Swing Golf Course in Great Falls, beginning at noon. The top runners in each race advance the NAIA championships on Nov. 21 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The top individual team will also advance to nationals. L-C State and Carroll are ranked high enough in both polls, however, that both will likely advance their men's and women's teams.

Saints coach David Morris is ready to see how his sixth-ranked men will do against the No. 3 Warriors. On the women's side, the sixth-ranked Carroll women will look to best the No. 15 LCSC at the six-team meet.

The men's race, Morris said, should be the most thrilling. It is a field that includes 2013 NAIA runner-up Sam Atkin of L-C, who redshirted last season, as well as Carroll's David Thor, the defending conference champion. The Saints' Lyle Pocha, who was named the NAIA Runner of the Week just three weeks ago, always figures to contend.

"We've got the defending champion (Thor) and Lyle is right up there," Morris said. "Hopefully, we can give (Atkin) a good run. That should be a really good race."

On the women's side, Leah Esposito of Carroll is looking to defend her conference title. Lewis-Clark State's Rachel Cundy, who took third in 2014, is also back to lead the Warriors. Cundy was named NAIA Runner of the Week in September.

Former Capital High standout Dontae Baker, who took second at the State AA meet last season, is also a member of the LCSC men's team.

"One team could do better in a bigger meet, but the Frontier is a smaller meet," Morris said. "The scoring is a little bit different, but we'll definitely get to see how we stack up."

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Ryan Collingwood is on Twitter @RwCollingwood and can be reached at ryan.collingwood@helenair.com 



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