WILMINGTON, North Carolina – The UNCW cross country teams kick off the championship part of their season early Saturday when they return to the rolling hills and uneven footing of Oregon Ridge Park for the second time this year to compete in the Colonial Athletic Association Championships.

“We know the course is tough, but we have raced tough courses all season long to prepare for this race,” said assistant cross country/track and field coach Layne Schwier from Cockeysville, Md., site of the race. “We know what to expect.”

The men’s teams of UNCW, William & Mary, Northeastern, Hofstra, and College of Charleston begin with an 8K at 10 a.m., followed by a women’s 6K for UNCW, William & Mary, James Madison, Towson, Northeastern, Delaware, College of Charleston, and Hofstra at 11 a.m.

William & Mary’s women are ranked No. 2 in the Southeast Region and 18th nationally. The Tribe men seek their 14th straight CAA title and are ranked No. 9 in the Southeast Region. Both squads are heavy favorites in the race. The race will be the College of Charleston’s first appearance at a CAA championship.

“We’re hoping to be in the mix with Towson and Charleston,” Schwier said. “Both teams beat us in the preview, but we came away knowing that we would improve enough to take them in this conference matchup.”

Senior John Riemer and newcomer Zach Nifong placed sixth and seventh out of 48 entries at Oregon Ridge Park earlier this year, helping the men take second place at the Towson Invitational in late September. Three more Seahawks placed in the top-20.

The women wound up fifth in the meet, paced by veteran Ashley Wybersky, Rachel Quinn and Haley Kapheim. The group finished 20th, 22nd, and 24th out of 85 runners.

Riemer, from nearby Monkton, Md., has been the top male runner in all five regular season races and clipped the 26-minute mark for the first time at the Blue Ridge Open. Wybersky led the women in four races, sitting out the Mason Invitational at the beginning of the month. Haley Kapheim rallied the team in Wybersky’s absence.

“Ashley has had some setbacks in the second half of the season between bronchitis and a rolled ankle,” said Schwier. “But as a senior in her last conference race I expect her to push through and overcome. If our top-five runners come together like they did in training, we plan on coming in at the top. This is what we’ve prepared ourselves for all season.”

Following Saturday’s race, the Seahawks will compete in the NCAA Southeast Regionals on Nov. 15 in Charlottesville, Va.