Cross Country: Defending their home turf

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September 29, 2008

10:28 PM

Men’s and women’s cross country coaches Alex Gibby and Kathy Newberry stressed the importance of finding their teams’ identities at the first true meet of the year — the Colonial Inter-Regional Challenge. After the men’s team’s first-place finish and the women’s second place, both coaches now have a foundation on which to shape those identities.

TRIBE MEN — First-place finish

On a muggy morning at the College’s home course (Eastern State Hospital/Dunbar Farms), the 23rd-ranked Tribe men edged past the University of Tennessee by seven points for the win.

Junior Ben Massam finished first in the race, posting a time of 24 minutes and 57.2 seconds over the 8-k course. Fellow junior Colin Leak finished second in 25:04.1, while sophomore Patterson Wilhelm finished fourth overall in 25:09.5.

The Tribe trio was at the front of the race at the one and two-mile marks, and later battled with Michigan State University’s Spencer Beatty and Tennessee teammates Andrew Press — who transferred to Knoxville from the College — and Mike Spooner for the lead.

Massam, Leak and Wilhelm’s front-running performances paved the way for the College’s narrow victory, but Gibby and his team seemed unimpressed with the results.

“It’s not like we made bad decisions, we made no decisions,” Gibby said. “Win or lose, it really doesn’t matter at this point.”

He expected more from a young team that is trying to work on finding its strengths and weaknesses.

“We have to bounce back and not let this get to our heads,” junior transfer Jon Grey, who finished 13th overall in 25:32, said.

TRIBE WOMEN — Second-place finish

The mood of the women’s team after the race was more optimistic.

The Tribe finished 23 points behind the race champion and eighth-ranked team in the country, Michigan State.

The Spartans dictated the tempo of the race from start to finish, keeping a pack in front of the rest of the
field. In the end, Michigan State swept the top three spots and placed its entire top seven within the first 10 finishers.

It was the first-ever race win for Michigan State’s Lisa Senakiewich, who beat out cross country and steeplechase All-American teammate Nicole Bush. Sarah Price, who ran steeplechase at the NCAA championships last summer for the Spartans, finished third.

For the Tribe, junior Emily Anderson led the way, finishing fourth overall with a time of 22:01.8 for 6-km. Junior Kayley Byrne followed Anderson to the line just eight seconds later to take sixth, while senior Lynn Morelli finished seventh in 22:19.

“I was happy with the effort,” Newberry said. “I’ll be more concerned with the actual results in three weeks [at Pre-Nationals].”

The Pre-National Invitational is scheduled to take place Oct. 18 in Terre Haute, Ind. The meet features the country’s top teams and will give the Tribe a preview of the NCAA championship course.

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