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Young runners start off strong

This weekend's men's and women's cross-country races at Darden Towe Park in Charlottesville provided the teams with a chance to start their season at a place they won't have the opportunity to race at again this season -- home.

The Cav men's and women's squads took advantage of their 1999 home debut by placing second in the women's race and third in the men's battle.

"I'm enthused -- it was a good beginning for us even though we're real young," Cav cross-country coach Evan "Buz" Male said.

The Virginia women scored 57 points to earn the runner-up position to James Madison's 19 and the men tallied 84 points to finish behind Liberty's 15 and William & Mary's 50.

"The women did a good job to come in second, they ran tough," Male said. "A lot of the girls had their best races and I was real happy with that."

"We did really well and I'm happy with everyone's performance," second-year runner Megan Schwartz said.

Perhaps more impressive than the high finishes from the teams is the fact that they primarily used first-year runners to reach success.

"On the men's side we ran mostly younger guys," Male said. "They did a great job for their first race."

In their first official collegiate races, Virginia first-years Thad Minshall and Brian Wood finished seventh and tenth overall, with times of 26:36.8 and 26:52.4 respectively. For the women, first-years Jenna Composti and Kimberly Myers earned sixth and seventh place finishes, with times of 18:42.9 and 18:44.2 respectively.

More than anything else, this home meet allowed the Cav cross country teams the chance to prepare for their first true test of the young season, next week's ACC preview meet in Chapel Hill. UNC's course will host the last ACC Cross Country Championship of the millennium. The importance of next week's challenge is one of the main reasons the Cavs held out some of their top men's and women's runners in the fall debut.

"We ran as many 'B' teamers as we could," Male said. "We held as many 'A' runners out because we go to North Carolina next week and want the top runners to be fresh."

"We're excited and we should improve because we're gonna use all of our runners next week," Schwartz said.

After last season's fourth and fifth place finishes for the men and women, respectively, the Cavs hope to impress upon the rest of the strong ACC clubs that in the Conference Championships they will be a force to be reckoned with. By throwing some of Virginia's older runners in the mix, including third-year runners Bob Thiele and Jennifer Owens, the Cavs could turn some heads next week in Carolina.

"We're gonna show UNC and everyone else what we've got," Schwartz said. "We really want to go out there and run a great race"


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