Knoxville, TN - The Montreat men's and women's cross country teams kicked off their season Saturday, traveling to Knoxville, TN to compete in the Victor Ashe Fall XC Classic.
The men's team got off to a great start and used that momentum to come through with a 2nd place team finish. Sophomore Daniel Lancaster (SO/Wilmington, NC) led the way for the Cavaliers, covering the hilly 5k course in 17:01 to finish 6th overall. Rylan Hincher (FR/Noth Wilkesboro, NC) made his collegiate debut a memorable one as he earned a spot in the top-ten with his tenth place finish (17:27). Hincher was followed closely behind by Steven Anhold (SO/Churchville, VA) (12th - 17:29) and Erik Rodriguez (SR/Euless, Texas) (13th - 17:39) while Brandon Welborn (SO/Traphill, NC) rounded out the top-five with a 22nd-place finish (17:55). The Cavaliers finished with 54 team points, just behind winner and #21 ranked Tennessee Wesleyan and ahead of NCAA Division II Carson-Newman.
"I was proud of how the men came out and competed this morning, said head coach Jason Lewkowicz. "We are very early in our season and this race is mainly used as an opportunity to train and learn what goes into preparing to race well at the end of the season when it counts. With that said, it was good for them to see runners from other teams and to preview the course where we will compete for an AAC championship in November."
The young Cavalier women's team followed and gained some valuable experience early in the season. The sophomore duo of Alona Kosenko (SO/Charlotte, NC) (27th - 23:57) and Samantha Gaskill (SR/Wilmington, NC) (28th - 23:58) led the way for the team with Madeline Carter (FR/Elkin, NC) finishing in 34th place (24:34) to take the third spot for the Cavaliers. Abbey Chevalier (43rd - 25:29) and MiKayla Poulter (SO/Hickory, NC) (46th - 25:37) rounded out the top-five for the women, who defeated AAC opponents St. Andrews and Union (KY) to earn a fifth-place team finish.
"The results might not show it today, but I thought our women came out and competed very well," explained Lewkowicz. We have a young and inexperienced group and many of them are just now learning what it means to train at the intensity level expected of a collegiate runner. I see positive strides every day with this group and they showed today that their is a ton of potential. I am excited to return back here in November for the AAC meet and see how much the women have improved in that time"
Lewkowicz went on to say, "I am really proud of both teams and how they carried themselves today. We are learning what it means to devote our efforts to Jesus and seek to honor Him with all that we are doing. This group is taking ownership of that and desires to make this season about His fame and glory. If we keep that focus and mission, I believe that the results will take care of themselves."
As Lewkowicz mentioned, the course today will be the site of the 2015 Appalachian Athletic Conference Championships on November 7. The cross country teams will compete again on September 19th at the UNC-Asheville Fall XC Classic at Asheville Christian Academy in Swannanoa, NC.
As the Montreat College cross country teams set their sights on the 2015 season, there are new faces all around a program that is seeking to make an impact in the Appalachian Athletic Conference. Head Coach Jason Lewkowicz enters his first season at the helm of the Cavalier cross country program and has brought along eighteen newcomers to join a solid core of returning runners.