CROSS COUNTRY: Paul takes top spot at Classic

Josh Buckman

Western senior runner Enda Grandfield had a choice to make on Saturday. He could sit out this week’s meet because of seasonal allergies, or take a chance by competing.

He chose the latter, and the decision paid off.

Grandfield’s time of 24 minutes, 59.39 seconds is something that few runners have ever done at the eight-kilometer Old Timers Classic – finish the race in under 25 minutes.

“I felt bad (Friday),” Grandfield said. “I wouldn’t have run at all, but I still felt pretty decent so I put off the (the decision) until this morning, and I ran about three laps around here, and I felt kind of loosened out.”

James Mutuse, of Eastern Kentucky’s Alumni team, won the men’s side (24:49.44) All-American Thomas Morgan finished second (24:51.32) for Kentucky, followed by Grandfield.

“The guys went out really fast at the start, and I wasn’t comfortable or confident enough to go out with them,” Grandfield said. “So I hung back there with the group, and I just kind of assessed myself as I was running along.

“I was really happy with how things turned out, and I can only get better.”

The race helped the Toppers find out where they stand and what they need to improve to prepare for the Sun Belt Conference championships. The SBC championships will be held in Bowling Green’s Kereiakes Park in November.

Competition at Saturday’s meet also included Eastern Kentucky’s men, Murray State and Sun Belt Conference rivals Middle Tennessee and Florida International’s women.

Western junior Daniel Roberts shaved about a minute off his time from last year and finished sixth (25:33.96). Senior David Altmaier, hoping to come back after missing all of last season with a stress fracture, was 12th (26:10.95).

But everything didn’t go well for the team. A virus sidelined sophomore Kevin Dick, a Bowling Green native.

“It’s hard to stop in front of your friends and family and say that ‘it’s better to live and run another day,'” coach Curtiss Long said. “You never know what your coach or anyone else is going to say. I really applaud him for the smart decision that he made.”

The Lady Toppers also had success, placing seven runners in the top 20.

After trailing early in the race, senior Bonita Paul took control and won in 22:22.28 in the women’s six-kilometer race.

“I just wanted to go out as relaxed as I could,” Paul said. “I wanted to move out as my body felt like it. I wasn’t concentrating on one person specifically.”

Kentucky’s women runners had finished in second, third and fourth place. Junior Cara Nichols overcame back pain earlier in the week to finish fifth (23:26.01).

“She lost a little bit of running efficiency, and that’s all you need in this sport,” Long said. “There is no running at less than 100 percent. You can’t stop and rest. The coach can’t substitute.”

Reach Josh Buckman at [email protected]