The Saluki cross-country team overcame the weather and the competition as the men’s and women’s teams won collectively at the Walt Compton Invitational in Charleston.
After a lightning delay set back the race’s start by more than 30 minutes, the men’s and women’s races were combined. The Division I schools that participatedin the race scored the competiton as a double dual meet. The men raced 8k of the course, and the women raced 5k. A double dual meet scores each team against each other instead of one large race.
The men’s team dominated the event as Salukis obtained the top five finishes. Sophomore runner Nick Schrader won the 8k race with a time of 25:26:36. Freshman Juan Carrera finished second for at 25:26:60.
Trailing them were third place finisher sophomore Evan Ehrenheim, freshman Oscar Medina in fourth and unattached freshman Brandon Shemonia who notched the fifth place finish.
Coach Matt Sparks said he sat most upperclassmen to give the younger runners an opportunity to assert themselves.
“We rely a lot on our more experienced players … it’s good to know that our younger guys can step up and win big for us,” he said.
However, the inclement weather and shortened warm-up time weren’t enough to affect the team adversely, he said.
“Even though they were racing under unique circumstances … racing all together and not having the usual amount of warm-up time, the team didn’t use that as a crutch,” Sparks said.
The SIU men acquired the top positions halfway through the race and then distanced themselves farther from the rest of the field.
“We executed like we wanted to out there,” Schrader said.
He said the summer workouts and training really helped prepare him for success in the race.
“Since the summer, we have been dedicated to putting in the miles everyday. We have been focusing a lot more on strength and endurance, and it’s paying off,” Schrader said. “It’s good to start off the season with a victory.”
The women’s team also faired well as it won the meet, and four women placed in the top 10. Sophomore Lacey Gibson’s time of 18:13:74 was enough to score her a third place finish for the Salukis. Sophomore Sadie Darnell finished sixth place overall and freshmen Kristen Levi and Kelley Gallagher won seventh and ninth place finishes, respectively.
“Lacey is a team leader … she went out there today and proved it,” Sparks said.
Gibson said the team is gaining confidence and that is integral in having a good season.
“We came out here and really performed well today,” she said. “I’m really proud of the team.”
The addition of the men to the race was unexpected but didn’t hinder the women’s performance Gibson said.
“It was kind of crazy to race with the guys, but we just rallied behind each other,” she said.
The Saluki Invitational at 10 a.m. Sept. 22 in Carbondale is the next meet for the SIU cross-country team. Sparks said the team must be focused as it enters into the more difficult part of the season.
“The next race really starts the competitive season for us,” he said. “I think we will be ready.”