Written by Jeremiah John
Southern Virginia University men's cross country took fifth place at the Berea College Invitational 8K on Saturday, placing two runners in the top 25 out of a field of 87.
Running in his first race for the Knights, freshman Jefferson Chandler finished 22nd, while fellow freshman Ryan Hatch took 12th leading all Southern Virginia runners. Both Hatch and Chandler came in under 30 minutes, with Hatch at 28:17 and Chandler at 29:26 respectively.
The 8K at Berea is considerably faster than the Washington and Lee 8K that Southern Virginia ran one week ago, and all of the Knights who finished both races improved their times significantly. Hatch for example finished his 8K at Berea 2:35 faster than he did at W&L. In contrast to the largely shaded course in Lexington with its series of short hills in the last half, Berea's course only has one slight incline through trees around the 5K mark.
The field of 87 runners was tightly packed for about the first mile, but the host team Berea dominated the race after that, running hard until the end and finishing with a perfect score of 15 points. They had all of the top 5, with the exception of two unattached runners from NCAA Division I Eastern Kentucky University, and nine of their runners finished under 30 minutes. Freshman Austin Houchens of Berea took first overall, while unattached runner Sean Vandermosten took second.
Second-place team Georgetown College put together an impressive performance behind Berea, with 8 runners finishing under 30 minutes.
Southern Virginia had two top 25 finishers and two of the best freshman runners in the race, but the Knights' junior captain Casey Mundell was unable to finish due to a hamstring pull, which may have cost SVU the fourth-place finish. Still there was no lack of effort for the Knights, as all of their finishers ran their fastest races so far this season, a few even staggering and falling at the finish line. Again the young team was carried by its freshmen, who held four of the top five Southern Virginia finishes.
The fast course and mild temperature made for a pleasant day. But at times the race had a post-season mood to it. The finish line lay at the end of a long straightaway, a good setting for fast finishing kicks and drama in the final stretch. Harriers fought for position through the last 50 meters, and a number of racers collapsed at the line or fell into the arms of race marshals, sometimes clogging up the chute. The suspense and close finishes came mostly in the middle of the field, however, after Berea had wrapped up their perfect score and Georgetown easily took second.
The Knights finish their busy September schedule this Saturday the 24th at the Maroon Invitational in Salem, Va.