CNU entered the USA South Conference Cross Country Championships as favorites once again for both the men and the women. The women were out to avenge the loss of their long win streak to Shenandoah last year and the men looked to extend their dominance to 19 years.
The calendar turning from October to November signifies the arrival of the Championship Phase of the Cross Country season. The USA South Championships at Hagan Stone Park in Greensboro, NC kicked it off and as has been the case in recent years, the Captains were tested by the Hornets from Shenandoah. The Captains were on a mission to reclaim their women’s title and to extend the men’s winning streak to 19 years.
The women heard the first gun and with the exception of Mary Baldwin’s Sophia Stone and a few harriers from Merideth College, the front of the race was a sea of CNU Royal and Shenandoah Red. As the course emerged from the first wooded loop, Stone and Jade Zaharoff (Vienna, VA) had separated from the rest of the field. Erin Rolaf (Woodbridge, VA), Jessica McClelland (Stafford, VA), Karen Bumiller (Burke, VA), and Julie Machamer (Chesapeake, VA) were controlling the chase pack.
The positions held steady through the longer wooded section of the course with only the spacing changing slightly. With a kilometer to go, Stone was well clear on her way to breaking the meet record on the course and Zaharoff was a minute clear of her nearest chaser. The senior Captain posted a personal course best by nearly a minute and her fastest full 6k by 20 seconds for a runner-up 23:29.99.
The next four Captains had only two Shenandoah runners in their midst with Rolaf (24:15.59) ultimately finishing just a step behind the Hornets’ #1. Shenandoah’s #2 was next to finish, but she had both McClelland (24:37.12) and Bumiller (24:42.92) on her heels. For McClelland the clock stopped nearly a minute and a half sooner than it had for her last year on this course and Bumiller posted a 59 second course and distance best. Machamer faded a bit in her first Conference Championships to a 10th place 25:22.19 and still posted a full-6k best time. She also closed the scoring for the Captains at 29 points – 19 ahead of runner-up and defending champion Shenandoah.
Frosh Sarah Russell (Manassas, VA) added her name to the second-team All-Conference roster with her 13th place finish (26:43.64). Brittney House (Midlothian, VA) (15th – 26:53.06), Meahgan Grant (Fairfax, VA) (19th – 27:22.21), and Emily Whitby (Alexandria, VA) (20th – 27:33.81) earned third-team All-Conference Honors each with big season and distance bests. Enuma Ezenwa (Herndon, VA) finished her season with a 6k best 27:48.75 in 22nd and Ashley Doerner (Fairfax Station, VA) finished in 24th and over a minute faster than last year (27:53.52).
In the men’s race, the Captains’ and Hornets’ dual meet was only broken up by a Methodist runner slipping in for 8th place. The rest of the top 18 finishers wore red or blue – and 11 of them wore the latter. The storyline for the race was established by 4k – Raymond Gamache (King George, VA) controlled the race with a strong and steady run. Shenandoah’s Josiah Renton kept him in his sights, but was never a threat.
Corey Lofton (Vienna, VA) and William Kirk (Mechanicsville, VA) were tracked by two more hornets and Patrick Cunningham (Williamsburg, VA), Aaron Zook (Harrisonburg, VA), and Bradley Turner (Williamsburg, VA) were mixing it up with the last two Shenandoah scorers and Methodist’s #1.
In the end, Gamache earned his first Conference Championship to back up his selection as the USA South Runner of the Year prior to the meet. His 26:09.55 is the second fastest run by a Captain on that course. Kirk collared Lofton at the end of the race as the two placed 3rd (27:04.40) and 4th (27:06.41). The next trio of Captains arrived soon after as Cunningham (27:29.67), Zook (27:33.79), and Turner (27:36.00) placed 9-10-11, ending the scoring at 27 points and claiming the 19th Conference Title in a row for CNU. As did Gamache, Brad Turner proved the conference coaches right as they voted him the Rookie of the Year - he was the first freshman finisher by over a minute. Besting Shenandoah by 5 points also affirmed Coach Barreau’s selection as the 2011 Men’s Coach of the Year.
The next two freshmen to arrive were, in fact, teammates of Turner as Samuel Martin (Rockville, MD) (28:28.09) and Gabriel Wentlandt (Woodbridge, VA) (28:31.20) finished a line of five consecutive Captains finishers. Scott Teribury (Woodbridge, VA) (28:02.55) slipped by Christopher Lyford (Leesburg, VA) (28:03.41) in the final meters of the race as the two claimed the final All-Conference spots (13th & 14th). Daniel Austin (Culpeper, VA) (28:14.52) arrived next before the two freshmen.The next step of the Championships Season is the NCAA South/Southeast Region Championships hosted by Texas Lutheran University in Seguin near San Antonio on November 12th.
For complete CNU Results, check out the Results Page