U.Va. cross country teams finish third
Men’s, women’s squads earn impressive Charlottesville result
The Virginia men’s and women’s cross country teams both placed third against a loaded field at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational Saturday, setting the tone for the season’s biggest races which still lie ahead.
The No. 15 Virginia women totaled 57 points to take third place behind Kentucky and first-place Wisconsin. No. 4 Oklahoma claimed the team victory in the men’s race with 40 points, while No. 22 Arkansas edged Virginia for second.
The Cavaliers played at home against a cast of opponents that included ranked teams, storied programs and All-American runners. Both Virginia squads came away pleased to pick up valuable points for national meet qualification, should they find themselves needing an at-large berth to make the NCAA Championships in November.
“Cav Man was super cool and the band was really nice to have out here,” graduate student Catherine White said of the atmosphere at Panorama. “Just having teammates, friends and roommates, that’s always a good, supportive environment.”
The women’s race went first, and White – competing for the first time in cross country since 2009 because of an injury sustained during the fall 2010 season – emerged from the first two kilometers of the hilly course among the leaders, a key checkpoint as the runners passed the first place where spectators could get a glimpse of the action.
Senior runner Vicky Fouhy, junior Ariel Karabinus and freshman Audrey Batzel trailed behind White, but established strong position toward the front of the field. At the finish, Kentucky junior Cally Macumber overtook White – who finished as runner-up – to capture the win with a time of 17:29.2 for the five kilometer race. Fouhy placed 10th, Karabinus placed 12th, Batzel placed 13th and junior Barbara Strehler placed 20th to round out the top five Cavaliers.
“I think we all came ready to run today,” White said. “Everyone ran tough and crossed the line pretty much together. We did a good job. We obviously have some work to do, but it’s September, so we have a good training block ahead of us.”
Despite entering as the only ranked women’s team in the field, the Cavaliers were encouraged by achieving a fairly successful result with a squad that was at less than full strength. Sophomore Kathleen Stevens and junior Katherine Walker, both key contributors, were held out with injuries, but are expected to return soon.
The Cavaliers were buoyed by their supporting cast, including the newcomer Batzel and Karabinus, who is rebounding from a difficult outdoor track season.
“[Batzel] did better out here than she did in high school [and] in her first race,” women’s coach Todd Morgan said. “Ariel Karabinus is coming back off of a rough spring, where she had some health issues, so now she’s heading in the right direction.”
The gun to start the men’s race followed shortly after the women’s finish, but the racing did not truly begin until roughly halfway through the eight-kilometer grind. Virginia established a strong contingent of runners near the front early in the race, but nearly the entire field ran in one large pack with only one runner attempting to break away in that time.
Michigan senior Dan Lowry led by about 150 meters at the four-kilometer mark, but the others runners were able to reel him in. Virginia men’s coach Pete Watson prepared his team for the Oklahoma runners’ trademark tactic of staying in a tight pack before separating themselves from the competition in the final few kilometers, and the battle unfolded true to form.
“We kind of figured that’s the way Oklahoma does things,” Watson said. “They’re always basically putting six or seven guys together through the field and finishing off. In cross country, you’re team’s only as good as your fifth guy, so you’ve got to pack that thing in tight.”
Cavalier graduate student Zach Gates – a transfer from William & Mary – topped his teammates with a fourth place finish in a time of 24:21.5. Senior Sean Keveren was seventh, redshirt freshman Kyle King was 13th, freshman Connor Rog was 17th and junior Thomas Porter wrapped up the scoring five in 25th place.
Like the women’s team, the Virginia men had to cope without some of their best runners in top form. All-American graduate student Mark Amirault did not race because of an injury, but the veteran is expected to be ready when the stakes become bigger as the season progresses. Meanwhile, junior Chris Foley had a subpar day while struggling through an injury of his own, fading near the end.
“Chris had a bad day, but we know he’s very fit,” Gates said. “He’ll be back.”
Those voids opened the door for Gates and Rog to make strong impressions as a team leader and upstart young gun respectively. Rog, who Watson called the “coolest kid around” for his poised performance, has continually impressed coaches and teammates despite his inexperience. But the star of the day was Gates, who has made a seamless transition to his new team and new training styles.
“It hasn’t been that hard, because I was mostly hurt the last couple of years at William & Mary,” Gates said. “It’s been a great group of guys and they’ve welcomed me with open arms.”