By ANDY LEONARD
This past Saturday, the University of Mary Washington men’s and women’s cross-country teams opened their season at the James Madison University Invitational in Harrisonburg, Va. Competing against Division I opponents, such as Duke University and the Naval Academy, the men and women both finished as the top Division III team at the competition, taking fourth and third place, respectively.
On the men’s side, senior Kyle Anderson was the top finisher for the Eagles, coming in 30th overall with a time of 27:15.
Next for the men was freshman Will Green and senior Stephen Harrison, who finished in 35th and 36th places overall. Green just narrowly edged his teammate Harrison with his 27:42 time, crossing a second before Harrison finished the race. Green’s second place finish was a pleasant surprise for Head Coach Stan Soper.
“I was very pleased with all the freshman,” Soper said. “Will Green’s performance stood out, he had a very good day.”
Sophomore Daniel Ache placed 39th with a time of 27:54, and senior Chris Marino rounded out the Eagles’ top five with a 40th place finish of 27:56.
The Lady Eagles’ top five were led by sophomore Elizabeth Green, who took 29th overall at 21:46.
Four new freshman faces on the women’s looked to make an immediate impact on the team and followed Green’s strong performance. Hannah Somers came in 31st place at 21:59 and Tara Landy crossed the finish line next with a time of 22:46, good for 36th place. Jennifer Moore and Brianna Berling were the other two UMW youngsters to place respectably, as Moore took was 37th at 22:55, and Berling rounded out the women’s top-five in 41st place at 23:09.
This race was the first test to the Eagles’ preseason rankings, in which the men’s team was ranked sixth in the region and the women ninth. Despite both Eagles’ teams high preseason rankings, Soper says there are more important things than outside perception.
“Rankings are good for publicity and stirring up interest, but they don’t mean a whole lot.” For Soper, rankings serve as a benchmark to live up to, but the team is always trying to improve and move a step closer to a CAC championship.
According to Soper, the invitational was most important as an opportunity for the team to get into a race situation.
“We run hard in practice, but racing is a different experience,” Soper said. “There are a lot of freshman on the women’s side. It was good for them to jump in and get their feet wet.”
The veteran experience of the men’s side means higher expectations for them during the season, but that isn’t to say it’s a rebuilding year for the women.
Soper always wants his teams to be in a position where they’re competing to get to, and prepared for, the conference championship. For the women, it will require an extra effort from the freshman as they try to quickly adjust to collegiate level racing.
Soper is confident that his teams will be among the better teams in the conference.
“The group has good potential and they are certainly working hard,” Soper said. “We hope to keep people healthy and we’ll see what happens as the season unfolds.”
Neither team competes this weekend, but both will be competing in two weeks at the Dickinson College Invitational in Carlisle, Pa.