Cross Country finds success at home
Women win invitational, men finish third
Saturday was nothing short of a perfect day to run cross country at Panorama Farms. The weather was clear, and the runners responded by putting on a remarkable show for spectators.
The No. 16 Virginia men could not top rivals No. 11 Eastern Kentucky or North Carolina and settled for third, but the Cavalier women stole the show, winning in decisive fashion.
The day’s action began with the men’s 8K race. Redshirt sophomore Kyle King was the first finisher for Virginia, running a 10th-place 24:03.4. Redshirt freshman Adam Visokay followed King and finished in 19th place. Senior Chris Foley, Junior Drew Paisley and sophomore Zach Herriott rounded out the Cavaliers scoring five.
Both King and Visokay hung tough with the leading pack, which consisted of eventual champion senior Soufiane Bouchikhi of Eastern Kentucky and several other runners, but Visokay fell off in the closing stages of the race. It was the longest race Visokay had run, and he said fatigue was a factor.
“This was the first eight-kilometer I’ve ever run in college, and it was pretty hard,” Visokay said. “I started to fall off from the pack in the last two kilometers.”
Visokay was not the only Virginia runner to make his debut in the 8K race. Herriott, a transfer from Oklahoma, also made the jump.
A third-place finish was not the Cavaliers’ goal, but they — and their coach, Pete Watson — understand that the race has to be put in perspective.
“Obviously, it sucks to lose at home, but it is part of the process,” Watson said. “It was a learning experience, and I think we came out of this with some very valuable lessons. I’m happy with the team. They’re healthy, they understood what happened, and they understand what happens going forward.”
No. 14 William & Mary was the prohibitive favorite to win the women’s five-kilometer race coming in, and throughout the race that outcome remained feasible. The Tribe’s top two runners formed a pack with Virginia senior Barbara Strehler, and quickly pulled away from the rest of the field.
Strehler remained strong, and matched senior Elaina Balouris and sophomore Emily Stites stride for stride until the very end. Balouris would break away and win in a course record 16:31.8, with Strehler finishing less than a second behind her.
The race came down to the other packs of Virginia and William & Mary runners. Virginia’s four remaining runners all finished before the Tribe’s number three, sealing the victory. Freshmen Maria Hauger, Sarah Fakler and Sara Sargent finished sixth, ninth and 14th respectively. Junior Kathleen Stevens placed 11th.
“It was a good opener,” Hauger said. “Our main goal was to get a win, and that was awesome.”
Given the large number of true freshmen on the team, women’s coach Todd Morgan says he wants to see more good races out of runners like Hauger and Fakler.
“I felt like [the freshmen] were one of the most talented groups in the nation,” Morgan said. “When they arrived with their focus, work ethic and diligence with the little things, I knew they were for real.”
The men face a quick turnaround this week as they travel to South Bend, Ind. to compete at the Notre Dame Invitational Friday. After shaking off the rust at Panorama Farms, they will be one step closer to reaching postseason form. The women will take a three-week break before tackling the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind., where they will look to continue their strong showing.