Virginia cross-country shows off young talent at Liberty Challenge

Juniors Madelin Rennyson and Libby Davidson and sophomores Derek Johnson and Peter Morris lead the way for the Cavaliers

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Sophomores Derek Johnson and Peter Morris secured second- and third-place finishes, respectively, at the Liberty Challenge. 

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

About an hour away at Liberty University in Lynchburg, the Virginia men’s and women’s cross-country teams made their season debut Friday at Liberty Cross Country Course. Both teams competed against Liberty, Lynchburg and VMI in a 4K race. 

This is the first time since 2012 the Cavaliers did not open the season at Panorama Farms, their home course. 

At a meet with few implications and no team scores tallied, both Virginia squads decided to use the venue to test some new and young runners. 

Juniors Madelin Rennyson and Libby Davidson earned the top two spots for the Virginia women, finishing in fifth and sixth with times of 15:23 and 15:24, respectively. However, the breakout performance of the day went to freshman and Tennessee native Coco Holliday, who placed 10th overall with a time of 15:41 in her first-ever appearance for the Cavaliers.

Junior Doria Martingayle and sophomore Sydney Coppolino rounded out Virginia’s five fastest female runners with times of 16:08 and 16:51, respectively.

"Our goal today was to run as a group," women's cross-country Coach Megan LaVoie said. "I thought the top girls did well executing that plan. We still have a lot of work to put in over the coming weeks."

On the men’s side, the top five Virginia runners all crossed the finish line in the top 20. Sophomores Derek Johnson and Peter Morris battled the entire race at the front, securing second- and third-place finishes, respectively, with senior Sam Teller right behind them at sixth overall. 

While Johnson and Morris both finished with a time of approximately 12:29, Johnson edged Morris by milliseconds. Teller recorded a time of 12:39, while junior Ryan Buscaglia and sophomore Ryan Lockett also came in with times under 14 minutes for the Cavaliers.

"Today's meet served its purpose for us, allowing some of our younger athletes an opportunity to compete, and in most cases, for the first time in a Virginia uniform," men's cross-country Coach Jason Dunn said.

The men’s cross country team races with a top-25 national ranking for the seventh straight season. Released last week, the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s Preseason Coaches’ Poll ranked the Cavaliers 23rd in the nation and second in the southeast region behind NC State. 

Next, the Cavaliers return to their home course — Panorama Farms in Earlysville, Va. — for the Cavalier Classic Saturday, Sept. 14.

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