By Ralph Epifanio
The 2010 College Cross Country season came to a close on Saturday, October 30th, as Stetson Men's and Women's teams competed in the A-Sun Cross Country Championships in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Running on the University of South Carolina Upstate home course, the Milliken Research Campus, the women ran 5 kilometers and the men 8 kilometers. Considered one of the South's most scenic cross country sites, the course-and perfect fall weather-contributed to a landslide of personal bests. Six of the eight men and two women ran lifetime milestones, while three more team members contributed season best performances.
Freshman Andrew Epifanio ended the season as he started it, finishing first among his teammates (62nd overall), in a PR of 27:36.91.
"The course was really fantastic; very scenic, and really beautiful. It was one of the best courses I've ever run.
"I knew it was going to be fast-I ran the first mile in 5:13-so I felt it was going to be a PR right away. I finished a minute and twelve seconds faster than my previous best (Mt. Dew, at the University of Florida's Bostick Golf Course, on September 18th)."
Running with Andrew the entire way was team captain, Kyle Burton.
"The course was great; a couple of hills-all up and down. My time-27:50.40--was a PR by about 45 seconds. The team did well."
Andrew concurred, "I think Kyle ran a fantastic race. He stayed right with me for almost three miles, and after that he continued to push the rest of the race. Also, Peter (Davis) ran a sub-30; it was a huge PR for him." (Davis, a sophomore, finished third for the team, in 29:38.69.)
Senior MJ Gort, who missed most of the season due to an injury, barely recovered in time to run in his final college meet. He ran his season-best time (32:38). Also running well, setting PRs in their final meet of the season, were Josh Morton (33:04) and Deryck Greene (34:01).
"This is faster than the A-Sun was last year," he said of the race held in Deland. "It was 80 degrees at the start last year."
"It was an encouraging race to finish with, and to look forward to next year," commented Epifanio.
Women's team captain, junior Maria Harper, came within a second of eclipsing her time at the A-Sun Championships two years ago-19:08-listed as the best Championship time ever for a female Hatter. Her official finish came in 19:09.15, and she finished in 41st place.
"It was a good course for a good runner," she began, "because there are uphills that you have to run through. Rolling hills.
The women ran first, at 9:00 AM. Early morning temperatures were in the high thirties-with a hint of frost in places--and it didn't warm up much until after the sun rose above the trees, which lined most of the course, about the time the race was wrapping up.
"For the first two miles, it was pretty cold," Harper continued. "You felt it. We were in the shade, pretty much (most of the race).
"If there's one thing about the Conference Meets, or big meets like this one, people go out fast. For a good runner, it's motivating, because you're 'reeling' people in (who may have gone out too fast), continuously."
Freshman Shannon Harper, who was a state-class sprinter in Colorado while in high school, was one of the girls who ran a 5K personal best at the meet. She finished second for the team, in 71st place, with a 20:42.47 time.
"The course was relatively flat, but there were some hills," she said. "The last hill was hard, but I loved the course. My motto-which I thought about a lot-is 'Run tough, have fun, and give God the glory.'
"It was a really good race. It was the first time that I pushed throughout the whole race, not just at the beginning. I am very encouraged by this season. I feel that I have improved a great deal. We had great coaching, an amazing team, and I learned a lot."
Alyssa Thompson, who finished in 76th place with a time of 21:26.15, also left with fond memories of her season-ending run.
"I loved it; it was gorgeous, and I think it was spectator friendly. It was so pretty. The weather was perfect. It didn't get dry, so that kept your legs fresh. And I loved the fall leaves...I'm such a Florida girl! I wish we could have every Conference Meet here."
It hardly seems fitting to end the "Fall" running season now that the weather is finally cooling off. So don't be surprised if the members of the Stetson Cross Country team are still seen running through the streets of Deland...although they may do so much later in the day than their usual 6:30 AM start time.
PL/MEN TIME PL/WOMEN TIME
62) Andrew Epifanio 27:36 41) Maria Harper 19:09
67) Kyle Burton 27:50 71) Shannon Harrell 20:42
75) Peter Davis 29:38 76) Alyssa Thompson 21:26
81) Alexander Kempinski 32:06 81) Stephanie Bird 22:46
82) MJ Gort 32:38 82) Kate Matthews 22:59
83) Josh Morton 33:04 84) Katrina McKay 23:23
85) Deryck Greene 34:01 85) Kelsey Munson 23:53
86) Brian Dughi Injured 86) Olena Vlasyuk 23:55