By: Hayden Cox, Columnist
This past weekend presented the toughest test the Paladin cross country teams will face until the NCAA regional NCAA Southeast Regional on Nov. 10.
Both the women’s and men’s teams ran split squad. The top seven runners on each side travelled to one of the premier invitationals in the country, the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational Presented by Under Armor, where the women competed against 15 of the top 30 schools in the country while the men faced off against 19 of the top 30 schools. Meanwhile the men’s and women’s B squads travelled to High Point, NC to race against a field including conference rivals ETSU, VMI, and Wofford in the High Point Vertcross Invitational.
All four teams exceeded expectations.
The ladies came into Wisconsin ranked 21st in the country and second in the region, rankings that would have anticipated them finishing 11th considering the competitive field. But the women exceeded expectations, knocking off top five in the country Stanford and a number of other schools ranked in the top 20 for a result of sixth place, a finish that should see them shoot upwards in next week’s rankings.
They were led by R-senior Allie Buchalski, who ran aggressively early, the only woman in the field gutsy enough to chase eventual winner Ednah Kurgat, before falling back to a respectable sixth place in the 6km race. The team score was rounded out by sophomores Savannah Carnahan (32nd), Gabby Jennings (33rd), Emma Grace Hurley (86th), and freshman Krissy Gear (100th).
The men also showed flashes of what may become championship season greatness. Coming in ranked 10th in the nation and first in the region, the men proved their dominance over top regional rivals Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and NC State showing they are ready to compete for a spot on the NCAA Championship podium.
Early in the race, R-senior Tanner Hinkle took charge, leading the race for most of the first half while the Paladins sat in second, behind reigning National Champions and number one ranked in the country, Northern Arizona. While the Paladins faded a bit over the last 2km, the men held strong for a fifth place finish, only six points off third place Syracuse, currently third ranked in the NCAA and the National Champions from 2015. Josh Brickell was the top finisher for the men in 13th. Second was a R-junior, XC All-American Aaron Templeton (20th), followed closely by seniors Frank Lara (26th) and R-senior Tanner Hinkle (36th). Rounding out the scoring five was sophomore Mason Coppi (62nd).
While the A squad shined bright in Wisconsin, the B squad showed Furman’s depth. The Furman men won the High Point Vertcross Invitational, dominating a 17 team field and stamping firm the Paladin authority over ETSU, VMI, and Wofford. The women also showed up well, racing only five, just enough to get a team score and managed to get a fourth place finish.