By Daniel Whitehead
BUENA VISTA, Va.—Faced with a chance to make a lasting mark in its final season as members of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, the Southern Virginia University men's cross country team made the most of the opportunity during the 2013 season.
The Knights placed fifth at the USCAA national championship race with 211 points, its best finish at the race since the 2009 season when they came in fourth.
"As a team, it was a good result for us," said Southern Virginia head coach Logan Davis. "Individually, the results weren't quite as good as we thought they could have been and I think we could have been more competitive. After a long season, the cold really got to the guys and they raced underneath their potential that day. It wasn't bad, but we could have done better.
"What I was most proud of was how the team came to work every day at practice. As the season went along, there was a lot of individual progression and guys were making huge strides. October was a great month for us. Most of the team was setting season or career bests and doing very well at each meet."
Southern Virginia was led by junior Patrick Gonzalez at the race, who earned first team All-America honors at the meet by way of his seventh-place finish. It was his second consecutive first team All-America season after placing third at the 2012 race.
The Riverside, Calif., native opened the season strong at the Washington & Lee Invitational, placing fourth overall in 28:58 (8k) to garner Capital Athletic Conference and USCAA Male Runner of the Week honors.
"Patrick was a good leader for us this season," Davis said. "Being one more year removed from a mission really helped, and we're finding ways he can continue to show leadership for the team and shortening the gap between him and the second-place finisher on our team."
Freshman Michael Ward was consistently the team's second runner to finish each race behind Gonzalez and led the Knights with a 22nd-place finish at the York Invitational. The Silverdale, Wash., native finished 27th at the USCAA championship and 50th at the CAC race. He ran a season-best 8k time of 27:12 at the Gettysburg meet and had a season-best placement of fifth at the Maroon Invitational in Roanoke, Va.
Junior Kevin Prince proved to be a solid team runner as he frequently crossed the finish line as Southern Virginia's third runner. A native of Doha, Qatar, Prince placed 35th at the USCAA race and came in 61st in 28:19 at the CAC championship. He earned a career-best time of 27:54 at the Gettysburg meet and placed seventh overall at the Maroon Invitational in 30:08.
"Michael Ward and Kevin Prince made huge strides," Davis said. "I was really happy with their improvement over the year. Our depth is usually a problem for us, but we had more this year. Going into next year, we'll have a few more returners and it will be great to have Patrick and Kevin leading the way as seniors. They both have a better sense of what to expect from the team, so that should help with their individual preparation for next season and each successive week during the year."
Senior Dan Fotheringham had a season-best placement of 36th at the Christopher Newport Invitational in 37:01 and came in 42nd at the Maroon Invitational in 38:53. The Salt Lake City, Utah, native also achieved team points at the USCAA and CAC races.
Aaron Barraclough, a freshman from Springfield, Va., finished 35th at the Maroon Invitational for his best placement of the year and arrived at the finish line in 59th in 37:44 at the Washington & Lee Invitational. He also scored team points at the USCAA and CAC meets.
Freshman Ciaran Giroux competed in two races for the Knights during the year, placing 50th at the York meet in 29:50 and coming in 79th place at the USCAA championship in 32 minutes to complete the year.
The team also excelled in academics with Prince and Fotheringham achieving USCAA All-Academic team honors.