By MIKEY BARNES
The men and women cross country teams have begun their new season behind new head coach, Kunle Lawson. Lawson comes to the University of Mary Washington from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where he served as the Director of Cross and Country and Track & Field since 2011. The University of Mary Washington welcomes Lawson as former coach Stan Soper retired this past spring.
UMW cross country and coach Lawson opened up their season at the Christopher Newport Opener Relay event in Richmond, VA on Tuesday, Sep. 1. The men’s cross country team was led by the relay team of junior Chris Markham and freshman Calhoun Stirling who finished 7th overall with a time of 31:20.
The team of senior Ian Granger and freshman J.P Burklow finished 16 seconds behind Markham and Stirling and in an overall place of 12th overall. Senior Chris Anderson and freshman Sean Miller finished in 14th place with a time of 31:49. The men’s team finished in third place behind William & Mary and Christopher Newport University.
Junior Victoria Parent and freshman Emily Knerr led the way for the women’s team with a time of 39:02 and finishing in 17th place overall. Three spots behind Knerr and Parent was the team of senior Sam Park and freshman Brianna Dolecki with a time of 39:34.
Seniors Amanda Patterson and Colleen Boyle finished in 21st place with a time of 39:38. The women finished in fifth place, behind William & Mary, Richmond University, VCU and CNU.
On Sept. 12, the men and women cross country teams traveled to JMU for the James Madison University Invitational. The men’s team finished in second place amongst non- Division I schools, led by the performance of junior Ben Sorenson. Sorenson finished in third place overall with a time of 26:43.
Granger finished the 8k course in fifth overall with a time of 27:27, followed by sophomore Kevin Jones with a time of 27:35 in seventh place. Senior Lauren Braney led the women’s team to a second place finish with her individual fourth place finish, clearing the 6k course in 21:19. Knerr finished in sixth place while freshman Jillian Weisbeck finished in ninth place overall.
Next on the schedule for the cross country teams was the St. Mary’s College Invitational on Sep. 19. Braney led the Eagles with a first place finish. Braney recorded a final time of 23:55. Senior Claudia Autore finished in third overall, with a time of 24:24.
Knerr finished just nine seconds behind Autore with a time of 24:33. Park finished in fifth, Parent in sixth and Weisbeck in eighth overall. The Eagles scored 19 points, just four points off of a perfect score of 15.
The men’s team finished second overall behind Sorenson’s first place finish.
“It’s always a confidence boost to win, but that ends that day,” Sorenson said. “The next day is back to work. [I’m] looking forward to another good training block this next month with our eye on the prize.”
Granger finished in third place, behind Burklow in ninth. Anderson finished in 13th place and Markham finished just two spots behind him, in 15th.
The men’s team lost to Salisbury University, who were fourteen points ahead of UMW and 67 points in front of the next closest team, York College. The second place finish came despite some injuries to two of the men’s team’s top runners, Jones and Stirling.
“Our second place finish last weekend without several of our top performers was reassurance that we can compete for the conference title.”
Sorenson, Lawson and the rest of the cross country program will be back in action on Oct. 2, at the Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Similar success in the St. Mary’s College Invitational is desired as the Eagles are in search for their first CAC championship since 2009.
Sorenson is very optimistic that is the case. “We just need to keep putting in the work day after day,” said the captain. “We are certainly the underdogs and no one expects us to perform like we will, but sometimes that is the best thing that can happen.”