By Marian Baker, Staff Writer
It was a crisp fall Halloween morning on the Furman Golf Course, perfect for the 86th annual Men’s and 31st annual Women’s Southern Conference Cross Country Championships. Both men’s and women’s teams were fielding not only the home team advantage, but the pressure to defend their titles as the reigning league champions for two years in a row. Luckily, they were up for the challenge.
The men’s team came into the conference tournament ranked second in the Southeast region and 10th in the nation, a historical achievement for the program.
The men swept the conference championship in 2014, taking the first nine spots in the race and filling the All-SoCon team as well as taking the overall title. With seven runners returning from last year’s title team, the Furman men’s team was the clear favorite for the this year’s title.
The men’s 8k race began at 10 a.m. with the Furman runners at the start of the pack. After four laps around the course, the men claimed second through eighth place to score 20 overall points for the victory, beating out second place VMI by 59 points and third place ETSU by 70 points.
Junior Troy Reeder finished first for the Paladins with a time of 24:13.81, followed immediately by junior Tanner Hinkle, sophomore Austin Sprague, sophomore Frank Lara, sophomore Aaron Templeton and junior Josh Brickell, forming the All-SoCon First Team.
Junior Kyle Polman and sophomore Mark Hadley also followed their teammates on the All-SoCon second team.
The women’s team came into conference tournament facing stiff competition compounded by a season full of injuries. However, the team, which is ranked 13th in the Southeast region, was still ready to take the win and defend its 2014 title.
The women’s 5k race followed the men’s at 10:45 a.m. and was off to a swift start. The Paladins pushed themselves to the limit and took three out of the first five spots scoring 33 total points, defeating Chattanooga by 19 points.
Junior Allie Buchalski finished in first place for the second year in a row with a time of 17:37.37, earning the SoCon Women’s Runner of the Year award. Junior Laura Miller finished third and freshman Jacquelyn Crow followed in fifth, both earning spots on the All-SoCon team. Crow also earned a spot on the All-SoCon Freshman team. Sophomore Emma Mashburn earned a spot on the All-SoCon second team, placing ninth.
Runners from Chattanooga and UNCG filled out the rest of the top seven and helped their teams earn the runner-up and third place titles respectively.
Coach Robert Gary also won the Coach of the Year award for the men’s team and tied as Co-Coach of the Year with Bill Gaultier from Chattanooga on the women’s side.
Overall, both men’s and women’s teams earned accolades all around and were excited to continue their conference sweep for the third year in a row.
Both teams will compete next on Nov. 13th at the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships in Charlottesville, Va.