CROSS COUNTRY: Western falls to Alabama

Josh Buckman

Western’s cross country teams went to Nashville last weekend believing this was the start of a season where they could contend for a Sun Belt Title.

Their performances at the Belmont Invitational did little to discourage those thoughts.

The Hilltoppers finished second out of nine teams, scoring 64 points. Southeastern Conference member Alabama won with 32 points. The women finished third behind Vanderbilt and Alabama-Birmingham with 106 points.

Senior Enda Grandfield finished second in the 5-kilometer race in 14 minutes, 48.38 seconds – 3.77 seconds behind Alabama’s Josphat Waweru. Grandfield’s time was about two minutes faster than last year’s.

“I thought the competition was really good, especially in the front,” Grandfield said. “There were a couple of really good guys up there. I was happy how I finished.”

Junior Daniel Roberts finished ninth (15:14.87) while sophomore Kevin Dick grabbed the 11th spot (15:19.00).

“We pretty much did everything the way we wanted it to go,” Grandfield said. “The ideal situation is to get our one to five runners packed as closely as we can to each other, and we did that. It’s probably our best race we’ve done as a team in quite a number of years.”

On the women’s side, results were mixed.

Senior Bonita Paul and junior Cara Nichols finished first and second overall with times of 10:57.37 and 10:59.71.

The duo were the only runners out of more than 100 to finish the two-mile race in under 11 minutes.

Freshman Nicole Jaggers finished 24th in 11:37.42.

Western’s inability to overcome UAB can be traced to a lack of depth. The team also had problems because the course was shorter than most races.

“I thought we would do a little better than that,” assistant coach Michelle Scott said. “I didn’t expect UAB to beat us. I really thought we’d finish second.”

Although the third place finish may seem discouraging, some team members think it could help them in the long run.

“That’s an advantage for us for us because now we know where we stand,” Paul said. “Now we know we have to work a little bit harder. Better to find out now then whenever the big meets start.”

Western will now take a two week break to prepare for its home meet. The 22nd annual Old Timers Classic will be held on Saturday, Sept. 20 at Kereiakes Park.

Reach Josh Buckman at [email protected]