By Ralph Epifanio
Running a rare 5K (3.1 miles) cross country race-most college men's races are 8Ks, or 4.98 miles--at the much-anticipated flrunners.com Invitational, freshman runners Andrew Epifanio and Deryck Greene both set significant 5K personal bests.
Flrunners.com is an extremely popular website which focuses on high school and college cross country and track within the state of Florida. It features running-related news, articles, results, an extensive calendar of events, commentaries and blogs. It is part of a national link-to every state--called milesplit, which can be used to research virtually any runner or running event, high school or college, from (at least) the past ten years. The flrunners.com Invitational, which is in its eleventh year, is an annual two day festival that features events for middle school, high school, college and open runners, and attracts literally, thousands of participants.
Competing on Friday night, October 1st, the Hatter cross country team had the advantage, not only of a mostly flat, fast course, but also to race in the relative cool of the evening, contributing even further to their level of performance. Both men and women ran the same 5K course at scenic Chain of Lakes Park, in Titusville.
Leading the Hatters, for the fourth straight time this season, was Andrew Epifanio for the men, and Maria Harper for the women. Andrew, encouraged by his former Deland High School XC team mates, who also competed on Friday night, ran an inspired race. In the early stages, he was in third place, but eventually slipped back behind a very talented Florida Southern College Mens team. (FSC took the first seven places to win with a perfect 15 points.) Epifanio crossed the finish line tenth overall, in16:41.58, which is a Hatter course, meet, and overall finish record for this FLR event. The Men's team finished fifth.
"I was trying to run around 16:30," explained Epifanio. "To do that, I knew that I'd have to be in the 10:40s for two miles, but coming off the bridge I saw 10:53 on the clock. When I first saw the finish line clock, I thought 'Wow, I still have a chance.'
"I think that the two mile mark was on the bridge, but maybe they couldn't put a clock there, so they placed it after the bridge, so the time was a little off.
"We were worried that the course might be flooded (because of recent heavy rains associated with Tropical Depression 16), but it was really fantastic and the competition excellent."
Maria Harper, who has competed here before, agreed.
"The field usually goes out really fast, so my goal was to go out strong and stay with the first pack. It is flat, so it can let me do that. My PR is 19:08. My best on this course is about 19:30 (19:37.16 in 2008), so I was going for a better time. I missed it by little bit (she ran19:48.42), but I'm okay with that."
Harper finished first among the Stetson women, 17th overall out of 93, and the women's team seventh out of ten. The Hatter course, meet and place record remains as Colleen Mullholland's seventh place finish in 2008, an 18:55.73 time.
Arguably, the best performance of the day may have been achieved by freshman Deryck Greene. He came in to the meet with a (former) personal best of 22:19, which he ran while still in high school, Stanton College Prep in Jacksonville. With the increased mileage he has been running since coming to Stetson, his level of performance has steadily improved, and his per mile pace has plummeted. In this, his first college 5K, Deryck ran 19:45.80 (6:21.7 per mile) to absolutely shatter his previous best by nearly 2 ½ minutes.
"I just went out at a pace that felt good to me," he told me. "At the mile I saw my time-just over six minutes-and tried to hold the pace as long as I could, then stick it out until the end.
"I still have a lot of growing to do, so I'm seeing the benefits from training; just putting in the work that the coaches plan for us, and running it. I'm getting there, and closing the gap between myself and the faster runners on the team. I'd like to move up and be one of the consistent scorers-top five-one the team."
Pl/Men Time Pl/Women Time
10)Andrew Epifanio 16:41 17)Maria Harper 19:48
32)Brian Dughi 17:54 30)Shannon Harrell 20:59
51)Alexander Kempinski 18:41 47)Katherine Matthews 22:36
60)Ryan Becker 19:12 50)Stephanie Bird 22:50
62)Joshua Morton 19:16 67)Kelsey Munson 25:08
72)Deryck Greene 19:45 68)Katina McKay 25:13
83)MJ Gort 20:51 72)Olena Vlasyuk 25:59
91)Kyle Bass 22:00 78)Gisela Fernandez 26:52
94)Matthew Ady 23:20 82)Jasmine Chalashtori 27:49
87)Allison Davis 31:05