By Michael Robinson and Carter Hunt
With victories at the Eye Opener Invitational in Spartanburg and the Furman Cross Country Classic, the men and women cross country teams have nice starts to the season that they look to carry forward. Junior Frank Lara won both eight kilometer races on the men’s side and freshman Savannah Carnahan won both of the women’s races.
While both of these runners had strong events, what is even more important for the team is the depth of runners that are behind them. In the Eye Opener Classic both the women’s and men’s teams placed seven of their runners in the top 10 scoring positions. At the Furman Classic the men swept the first five places over Auburn, Clemson, College of Charleston, and Presbyterian.
Even more impressive is that a large portion of the depth for both the men’s and the women’s teams is coming from freshmen. On the women’s side, six of the seven runners who finished in the top 10 were freshman runners. On the men’s side Freshman Mason Coppi came in second at the Furman classic.
Most of the freshman have raced predominantly 5k’s during their career so the transition to six and eight kilometer races can be a difficult adjustment at times. This is not slowing down many of the freshman though who are having a hot start to their collegiate careers.
According to senior runner Laura Miller, the freshmen’s strong start to the season are a harbinger of things to come.
“We brought in eight freshmen this year,” Miller said, “And with six seniors mixed in our team has a unique mix of experience and talent that should carry us to good results.”
If Miller’s predictions come true, the Paladin women will be securing their first-ever birth in the NCAA championships in November. Their chances are bolstered by senior Allie Buchalski’s return for her final campaign. Buchalski received All-American honors last year for finishing seventh in last year’s NCAA meet. She enters this season as Flotrack’s seventh ranked collegiate cross country runner. Despite the individual nature of the sport, Miller adds that her personal goal is to ”bring these girls together so our team can run strong and united.”
Tabbed by a preseason poll of coaches as the preseason favorites to win the SoCon for the third consecutive year in both men’s and women’s cross country, this Paladin squad has high expectations for the year and is meeting them in stride. Having won the past three SoCon championships for both the teams, this year’s squads will have plenty to live up to, but so far it looks as though they are up to the challenge.
Lara and Carnahan were both named as the men’s and women’s SoCon runners of the week in light of their performances at the Eye Opener Invitational. The event, hosted by USC Upstate included Clemson and Stetson as while as rival Wofford College fell short to the Furman teams.
Up next for the Paladins is the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn on Sept 24. They will be back in Greenville Oct. 8 for the Gene Mullin invitational.