Cross Country

The Emory men’s and women’s cross country teams both finished in fifth place after competing in their first major competition of the season, the Furman Classic, Sept. 9.

Emory traveled to Furman University in Greenville, S.C., where the Eagles battled more than 15 schools, including a pair of NCAA Division I opponents in Furman and Clemson University (S.C.). Furman placed first in both the men’s and women’s races.

Going into the event, Head Coach John Curtin was hopeful that the course’s layout would work to the benefit of his runners.  

“We like Furman because it’s on a golf course and has good footing for the most [part],” Curtin said. “The course is also fast because it is fairly flat.”

Curtin praised his team’s performance, noting that it exceeded his expectations.

“The team performed better than I had anticipated,” Curtin said. “That was the best we have run on [Furman’s course] in several years.”

Headlining the women’s performance in the classic, senior captain Gabrielle Stravach cracked the top ten, finishing No. 7 out of 163 competitors. Stravach was Emory’s top runner for the ninth time in her career and second time this year, leading the team with a 6K time of 21:34, the second best of her illustrious collegiate career.

Placing among Emory’s top five runners included junior Maeve Andrews, freshman Abby Durfee, junior Kaylee Slade and sophomore Meredith Hughes. Along with Stravach they averaged a time of 22:40, more than a minute off the pace of No. 1 Furman’s time of 20:54.

Stravach said that she was pleased to see her teammates perform so well together.

“Our girls ran really well together, we had a lot of girls try and run together as a pack,” Stravach said. “This was good because we have a really young team and don’t have a ton of freshmen who are used to running 6Ks.”

Curtin expressed how impressed he was with the top five’s times and Stravach’s top ten finish.

“Our top five all ran 23 minutes and six seconds or better,” Curtin said. “Stravach ran faster than we ever had anybody run on that course.”

For Stravach, the early successes fuel her goals.

“I definitely have some lofty goals for this season,” Stravach said. “I would really like to be all-American for cross country, which normally takes times around 21 minutes to do that.”

Placing No. 21 overall out of 175 runners, junior Bennett Shaw was Emory’s top male runner. Shaw finished with a career-best 8K time of 25:35, more than a minute faster than his first race of the season.

Joining Shaw in Emory’s top five runners, sophomore Marty Pimentel, senior Shane Sullivan, freshman Matthew Burke and sophomore Sam Branson all posted impressive times. Together they averaged an 8K time of 26:17, more than two minutes slower than Furman’s average time of 24:03.

Shaw said that he felt “pretty good” and “stuck to the game plan” during the race.

“I utilized the pace and strategy the coaches put out for us and it worked out pretty well,” Shaw said.

Saturday’s meet highlighted the team’s youth and depth, Shaw said.

“We have a lot more freshmen who are running well already,” Shaw said. “I think the fact that we had so many people run well is going to help the team’s confidence.”

The Emory cross country teams will race again in the University of North Georgia Invitational Sept. 16.

Emory’s cross country team started of the season with a commanding victory in the Watermelon Run at Berry College (Ga.) Sept. 1. The men’s and women’s teams were the top teams among five different schools.

The women’s team dominated, with their top five runners finishing within the top seven of 72 runners. Those women contributed to a No. 1 finish ahead of No. 2 Berry College, No. 3 Covenant College (Ga.), No. 4 Piedmont College (Ga.) and No. 5 Wesleyan College (Ga.).

Best among the women, senior Gabrielle Stravach finished No. 1 overall with a 6K time of 22:44, more than a minute faster than the No. 2 runner, her teammate junior Maeve Andrews. Following Stravach and Andrews in Emory’s top five, freshman Abby Durfee, sophomore Meredith Hughes and senior Hanna Saadegh-Vaziri all contributed to Emory’s first-place victory.

In the eighth first-place performance of her career, Stravach showed that she could easily pick up from where she left off last year, when she finished No. 1 in all seven of Emory’s races.

Emory’s women recorded an average time of 24:04 among their top five finishers. The women left the competition in the dust, with the next best team finishing more than a minute behind Emory’s average time for their top five runners.  

The men finished No. 1 above No. 2 Oglethorpe University (Ga.), No. 3 Covenant College, No. 4 Berry College and No. 5 Piedmont College. Emory’s top five male runners finished within the top 11 of the 79 men participating in the race.

Leading the pack, sophomore Marty Pimentel finished eight seconds before the next best runner, teammate junior Bennett Shaw, with a 26:57 8K time. For the first time in his collegiate career, Pimentel posted a first-place finish.

Head Coach John Curtin raved about Pimentel’s outstanding day on the course.

“Marty looked really strong,” Curtin said. “He and [Shaw] ran together for the first three and a half miles, and then [Pimentel] felt good and he went for it.”

For Pimental, the first-place finish was a solid start to the season.

“I was pretty much where I wanted to be,” Pimentel said. “I felt pretty fit going, and I performed the way that I had wanted to.”

With several of his teammates also showing potential for the season ahead, Pimentel said that he strives to remain among Emory’s top runners.

“I hope to be among the top of the team,” Pimentel said. “Our team is really good this year, so it’s going to be really competitive to see who’s up there in the top group.”

Also posting strong performances, Shaw, freshmen Jacob Hedgepeth and Egan Kattenberg and senior Shane Sullivan were all among Emory’s top five finishers. They ended with an average time of 27:34. Their average was 32 seconds better than No. 2 Oglethorpe’s time of 28:06.

Given their dominant performances, the Emory teams are keeping their results in perspective.

“There wasn’t a lot of competition,” Curtin said. “So we were kind of competing amongst ourselves more than anything.”

The head coach also established pace goals for all of his runners.

“About half of [our runners] performed at the level that we hoped for,” Curtin said. “Some went a little faster than we wanted and some didn’t do as well as hoped, but the majority of the kids hit their pace goals.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams will compete again Sept. 9, at the Furman Classic in Greenville, S.C.

Last competing November 2016, Emory’s men’s and women’s cross country teams have worked diligently during the offseason to prepare to take flight their first meet of the 2017 season.

Both the men’s and women’s squads enjoyed successful seasons in the Southeast Region in 2016. The men finished third overall in the Southeast, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III National Championships, and the women won the regional title in the Southeast, qualifying for an automatic bid to Nationals.

Despite falling short of the top of the University Athletic Association (UAA) in 2016, Head Coach John Curtin emphasized that, while UAA competition is a focus, first priority lies with the Eagles’ regional competitors.

“Our main goal is to win regionals,” Curtin said. “If we can’t win regionals, we want to at least finish in a position where we could finish high enough to qualify for nationals.”

A new season is on the horizon, but there is still a hint of bitterness left over from last year’s final results: Curtain had hoped for better outcomes on a national level last year, especially on the women’s side.

“The women’s team was definitely a top-20 caliber team last year,” Curtin said. “However, our team fell off a bit in our fifth person, as the top five runners on your team count towards your score.”

This season, the team hopes to find some consistency and regularly field five successful runners rather than only relying on the team’s top runner.

With the season yet to begin, Curtin said that it’s too early for the coaching staff to predict if both teams will have the improved depth to outperform last year’s team.

“It is hard to be really sure of what we have right now,” Curtin said. “We have lost some terrific seniors so we will need new runners to step up.”

This year, the Eagles will field their “largest team ever,” according to Curtin. The men’s team has 31 members, including five seniors, and the women’s team has 29, with four seniors. The addition of 14 and 11 members to the men’s and women’s team, respectively, gives the Eagles several new runners to put into meets this year.

Senior Gabrielle Stravach, Emory’s top runner in all seven of her races in 2016, expressed her excitement about the larger team.

“We usually have our strongest teams when we have a lot of girls on it,” Stravach said. “Having a lot of girls creates a positive atmosphere, and we work better as team when there are more of us.”

Senior Shane Sullivan and junior Bennett Shaw return to the Eagles as two of the men’s team’s top runners. Sullivan was deemed Emory’s most improved runner in the 2016 season, recording a personal best 8K time of 25:38 at the Division III Championships. He was also No. 3 on the team at the UAA Championships and the Furman Classic.

Shaw, one of Emory’s top five runners in six of his seven races last year, posted a personal best 8K time of 25:50 at the UAA Championships and finished second among Emory runners at the Furman Classic.

On the women’s side, Stravach comes into the season as one of the squad’s top runners. Curtin praised Stravach as one of his best female competitors.

“[Stravach] is the lead dog,” Curtin said. “She’s talented, she works hard and everyone looks up to her and respects her.”

Last season, Stravach posted a career-best 6K time of 21:33, achieved second-team all-UAA honors and posted Emory records at Nationals and the UAA Championships.Stravach said that she attributes the success of her breakout year to preparation and diligence. She hopes that her success motivates her teammates.

“Our sport is the type of sport where you get out of it what you put into it,” Stravach said. “I hope this helps the other girls work harder and stay determined to get to where they want to be.”

Stravach and the rest of the women’s and men’s cross country teams will have the opportunity to demonstrate just how much work they’ve put into this offseason, with the teams’ first meet Friday, Sept. 1, in the Watermelon Run at Mount Berry (Ga.).

To compete in a do-or-die meet, the Emory cross country team traveled to Berry College (Ga.) Saturday for the South/Southeast Region Championships hosted on the Clara Bowl Course.

The women’s side advanced through an automatic birth after the No. 18 group took first place with 68 points, followed by runner-up Rhodes College (Tenn.) with 103 points and third-place Christopher Newport with 117 points.

Junior Gabrielle Stravach led the way for the Eagles, placing fourth out of 213 runners thanks to a 6K time of 22:25. Junior Megan Waples was the second Eagle on the board with a 23:09 performance for the 14th overall finish. Trailing Waples, senior Mia Eisenhandler finished with a time of 23:11 and junior Tru Powell ran a time of 23:15, taking 15th and 16th place, respectively.

“We have had a team running strategy, with the exception of Gabby [Stravach], who is a little better and stays ahead,” Curtin said. “Overall, I thought we did pretty well.”

The No. 26 men’s squad finished in third place with 103 points out of 29 teams, short of first-place Christopher Newport University (Va.) with 52 points and runner-up Washington and Lee University (Va.) with 58 points.

Senior Michael Sisario led the Eagles, running the 8K with a time of 25:34 to achieve fifth place out of 208 individual runners entered. Following Sisario, senior Lukas Mees attained 11th overall after clocking in at 25:51. Sophomore Bennett Shaw was the third Emory runner to finish with a time of 26:32 to fill the 27th overall spot. Shortly after, junior Shane Sullivan and senior Austin Hunt took 29th (26:37) and 31st (26:40) places , respectively.

The men were short of an automatic bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-III Championships, but received at-large bids Sunday.

“The goal is, as always, to get to the next weekend,” Head Coach John Curtin said. “And we were trying to defend our region titles.”

The playoff season resumes this Saturday after a short rest and preparation period.

“Most of the work is done,” Curtin said. “So it’s about getting rested up and getting heads on straight to race.”

This Saturday, Nov. 19, the Eagles will lay everything on the line in this year’s NCAA Division-III Championships. They will make their second trip of the year to Louisville, Ky., to run on the E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park course. The women will start at 11 a.m., and the men will begin competing at noon.

The Emory cross country program returned to racing Saturday, Oct. 15, in two meets: The women and men took eighth and seventh, respectively, in the Rowan Inter-Regional Border Battle in Glassboro, N.J., but fared slightly better at the Berry Invitational in Mount Berry, Ga, with the women and men placing fourth and third, respectively.

The No. 21 women’s squad garnered 304 points, placing eighth out of 45 teams in Glassboro. No. 4 Johns Hopkins University (Md.) (70 points) claimed first, followed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (134 points), State University of New York at Geneseo (136 points), Ithaca College (N.Y.) (211 points) and State University of New York at Oneonta (263 points).

Winning it all was a tall order for the Eagles, but there was no shortage of recognizable success.

“Our women ran better than they ever have at this point in the season,” Head Coach John Curtin said. “And we beat a lot of teams ranked ahead of us.”

All 10 runners he selected to attend this meet ran new personal records in the 6K — and nine  finished under 23 minutes. Leading the group was junior Gabrielle Stravach, clocking in at 21:33, gaining a 22nd finish out of 386 runners. Senior Mia Eisenhandler was the next Eagle to finish, placing 64th overall with a time of 22:16. Slightly later were junior Tru Powell (22:23) and sophomore Maeve Andrews (22:24), taking 74th and 75th, respectively.

The No. 25 men’s squad performed similarly, earning a finish of seventh place out of 43 teams on a 297-point performance. Their competition was also very tough. No. 1 SUNY Geneseo (71 points) took home first place, followed by No. 5 MIT (127 points), No. 11 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (N.Y.) (168 points), No. 20 Haverford College (Pa.) (184 points) and No. 18 New York University (216 points).

Senior Michael Sisario led the way for Emory with a 32nd overall finish among 382 individual runners, clocking in at 24:22,his new personal record in the 8K. Fellow senior Lukas Mees also ran a new personal best at a time of 24:25, attaining the 37th spots. Freshman Luis Torres was the next Eagle on the board with a time of 24:37 for the 51st overall spot, maintaining his brilliant rookie year.

“It was my first time finishing No. 1 in the group, which was awesome,” Sisario said about his effort.

Sisario attributes his personal success to his coaches and teammates.

“My coach does a really good job, helps us prepare and develop racing plans and racing strategies that work well for each of us,” Sisario said. “For me, it’s about making sure I’m starting slow and then speeding up as it goes on, but that can be different for other people.”

Sisario also mentioned racing with his teammates improves his own performance.

“It’s the 5K to 7K part when your legs are tired and hurting, but it helps that I can communicate and race with my teammates like Lukas [Mees] and Luis [Torres],” Sisario said.

At the Berry Invitational, the Emory men’s group delivered a 145-point performance to take away third place out of 19 teams in the 8K. Sewanee: the University of the South (Tenn.) won it all with 145 points, followed by runner-up and meet host Berry College (Ga.) with 84 points.

The women’s side also showed promising achievements, with a fourth-place performance of 146 points out of 19 teams in the 6K. Berry (77 points) was the runner-up here as well, behind Florida A&M University (23 points) in first place.

“Berry was a chance for the kids who weren’t in the top 10 to race one more time,” Curtin said. “And we had several personal bests.”

Meanwhile, the goal for the Rowan Inter-Regional Border Battle, according to Curtin, was to “gain a quality event before we start our championship season.”

“Glassboro was one of the biggest and best in the country, with 400 athletes in each of the races and 14 nationally ranked teams,” Curtin added.

Beginning of the Eagles’ championship season, Emory will host the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships at the McIntosh Reserve Saturday, Oct. 29.

Junior Julie Williamson competes at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Alabama. In addition to being honored as an Athlete of the Week by, Williamson was awarded the Sonny Carter Scholarship.  | Courtesy of Emory Athletics
Junior Julie Williamson competes at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Alabama. In addition to being honored as an Athlete of the Week by, Williamson was awarded the Sonny Carter Scholarship. | Courtesy of Emory Athletics

Junior cross country and track & field runner Julie Williamson has been awarded the prestigious Sonny Carter Scholarship, which is granted to athletes who demonstrate academic and athletic prowess as well as enriching community life.

The scholarship memorializes Manley Lanier “Sonny” Carter Jr., an Emory alumnus. He was a soccer player, physician, test pilot and astronaut. Mrs. Dana Carter and Dr. David Short, in addition to other family members and friends of Sonny Carter, founded the scholarship. The scholarship pays for partial tuition for one academic year.

“[Carter] was such an amazing person, so to get recognized by his award is inspiring,” Williamson said. “It’s so special and an honor.”

Williamson applied for the award and was given recommendations from professors and coaches.

“I am absolutely thrilled,” said John Curtin, who is the head coach of both the cross country and track and field teams.

“There isn’t a person more deserving. She is the most humble and caring teammate you can have. She’s the type of girl I hope my grandchildren grow up to be like.”

Williamson has been one of the track team stars since she came to Emory three years ago. This week alone she was spotlighted as Athlete Of The Week by for helping set a school record by anchoring the 4×800-meter relay team at last weekend’s Emory Invitational. She came in third in the individual 800-meter race with a time of 2:14.46, the sixth fastest in Emory’s history.

“Curtin is a great coach,” Williamson said. “When I came to Emory I wasn’t nearly as good as I am now; I’ve improved a lot because Coach [Curtin] never game up on me. He’s been so encouraging this whole time.”

Because of Williamson’s rocky start at Emory, Curtin often has Williamson talk to freshmen who are nervous for meets or are anxious about being on a new team, she added.

“I had a tough time transitioning into college track,” sophomore teammate Alexa Young said. “I spoke to [our coach] who told me that Julie had a similar problem, but became better sophomore year. She’s always been a hard worker, but this year, the amount she has worked has increased exponentially and her times are unbelievable.”

During this past indoor season, she earned All-University Athletic Association (UAA) honors with her third-place finish in the 1600-meter relay with a time of 15.36, which ranks as the second fastest time in the Eagles’ history.

This season isn’t the first season she has seen incredible success. Williamson participated in the NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships twice and earned five All-UAA honors.

Academically, Williamson has been just as impressive. She has a 3.962 cumulative grade point average as a neuroscience and behavioral biology (NBB) major. Through her academic success she has been on the Dean’s List and has been awarded Academic All-UAA recognition five times each. She is a member of the exclusive Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Eta Sigma honors societies.

Despite having the difficult task of excelling in academics and athletics, Williamson has still found time to work as a research assistant for the Emory University Department of Cell Biology and is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

“I found out right after a finalist interview, so I knew I had a chance, but it was still such a surprise,” Williamson said. “It was actually very good timing as it came right before our conference meet, so I went into the meet with a lot of confidence. I’m very grateful.”



Photo Courtesy of Emory Athletics.
Photo Courtesy of Emory Athletics.

By Elana Cates
Asst. Sports Editor

The trip home on Saturday was bittersweet for the men and women’s cross country teams. Both were able to compete at the NCAA Division III Championships in Mason, Ohio; however, they both recorded 29th-place finishes out of the 32 teams at the meet.

This was the 15th appearance at the NCAA Championships in the history of the program for the men, and the 22nd for the women.

The women totaled 653 points for the day. Senior Tamara Surtees, who ran the 6K with a time of 22:26, placing her 34th out of all 275 runners, led the team. Surtees gained All-America honors, the sixth female Eagle to capture the honor in Emory’s history and the first since 2006. The next Eagle to cross the finish line was senior Marissa Gogniat, finishing with a time of 23:51 that ranked her 149th.

“For the women’s team, we were disappointed overall, the course was so sloppy by the time they ran,” Head Coach John Curtin said. “But, Tam [Surtees] was the highlight. She ran well, and has come very far; to get All-American is an amazing accomplishment. Her last three runs have been great — each has been better than the next, and we are all immensely proud.”

Other Emory women who led the team included senior Elise Viox (24:01), freshman Halle Markel (24:19), freshman Gabrielle Rudolph (24:22), senior Stephanie Crane (24:28) and sophomore Sophie Cemaj (24:55).

“Nationals is what we work towards the whole year and, even though only the top seven girls race, it’s a goal that the whole roster shares,” sophomore Kelsey Abbott said. “We’re also all so proud of [Surtees] for making All-American. I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”

Johns Hopkins University (Md.) won the women’s championships with 87 points.

The men’s team finished with 650 points. The men were led by senior Alex Fleischhacker, who finished first for Emory, and recorded a personal-best 8K time of 25:31.5, placing him 128th out of 280. Senior Tyler Cooke also ended his career with a personal-best of 25:32 that placed him 131st.

“Our seniors led the way, and the men ran as well as they could,” Curtin said. “Nationals is always hard because it’s the best 32 teams. The quality of competition is very high.”

Following the two seniors finished junior Lukas Mees (25:43), sophomore Grant Murphy (25:56.9), freshman Jordan Flowers (26:10), sophomores Austin Hunt (26:23) and Michael Sisario (26:48).

North Central College (Ill.) won the Men’s NCAA Championships with a total 130 points.

“Overall, we had a successful season for both teams, and I am happy,” Curtain said. “Our best running did happen at Regionals, but it’s always exciting to go to Nationals.”

Although the teams are graduating some of their top runners with the senior class, Curtin maintains high hopes for next season.

“Next season, we will have to reevaluate as we are loosing key seniors on both [the] men and women’s sides,” he said. “It will be a daunting challenge to fill their spots. Our goal is, and always has been, to be a national caliber team, and I don’t see that changing.”

— By Elana Cates, Asst. Sports Editor

Both the men's and women's teams are now heading to the NCAA Finals next Saturday, Nov. 22. | Courtesy of Emory Athletics.
Both the men’s and women’s teams are now heading to the NCAA Finals next Saturday, Nov. 22. Courtesy of Emory Athletics.

Oliver Rockman
Staff Writer

The Emory men’s and women’s cross country teams left the NCAA Division III South/Southeast Regional Championships happy on Saturday, picking up a pair of wins and automatic bids to the National Tournament next Saturday. The meet was hosted by Berry College in Rome, Ga., which is only about 75 miles away from Emory’s campus. The proximity of the event was a huge advantage for the Eagles, according to Head Coach Jon Curtin.

“It was almost like a home meet for us,” he said. “The fact that it was at Berry College in Rome; it wasn’t that far away, and we had close to 200 alumni, friends, family and fans out there to support us.”

The Eagles had experience on the course — some having run it twice already this year.

“[The Eagles had] knowledge of the course,” Curtin said. “The familiarity helped.”

The men’s team came into the meet ranked first in the region and seeking their first regional championship since 2009.

The team was able to edge out a win by three points against Bridgewater College (Va.), finishing on top of the 28-team field with 62 points. Sophomore Grant Murphy was the fastest on the day, finishing the 8k course at 25:41, the sixth fastest overall time. Murphy was shortly joined by teammates junior Lukas Mees, seniors Alex Fleischhacker and Tyler Cooke and freshman Jordan Flowers, with times of 25:48, 25:50, 25:52 and 26:24 respectively. All five of the team’s top scores earned all-South/Southwest honors, as did sophomore Austin Hunt, who ran a 26:31.

The proximity of these times displayed the Eagles’ running unity.

“They are a very tight team,” Curtin said. “They are all very comparable in abilities, and they run together as a group, push each other as a group. It really paid off for us Saturday.”

The Eagles’ similar talent levels allow for them to pick up the slack when their teammates struggle.

“Grant Murphy was a big surprise,” Curtin said. “He is the fourth different guy who’s been our top runner this year. With this team, there’s always another guy who can step up.”

Another huge performance came from Flowers. His fifth place finish came after dealing with a case of the norovirus that has been present on Emory’s campus recently.

His effort impressed both his coach and teammate Lukas Mees.

“[He] still managed to hold it together and garner some all-region honors, not to mention make up the valuable points that helped us to the three point victory over Bridgewater on Saturday,” Mees said.

Flowers’ performance was imperative to Emory’s win.

“[I] give him a lot of credit,” Curtin said. “It came down to him and was a very close score. Had he not run as well as he did we may not have won.”

The women’s team won their 18th championship in the last 24 seasons in dominant fashion, finishing with 62 points, which was good enough for a 63 point margin over second place. Senior Tamara Surtees placed fourth in the field with a 6k time of 22:14.

Four more Eagles finished in the top 20, as freshman Halle Markel ran a 23:01 and seniors Marissa Gogniat a 22:40, Stephanie Crane a 23:09 and Elise Viox a 23:10. All five earned all-Region honors, as did sophomore Sophie Cemaj, who posted a time of 23:23.

The win was hugely gratifying for the Surtees, as the team’s last regional win came in her freshman season.

“[A Regional Championship] was a big goal going into season, and it is really nice to finally win it,” she said. “We placed second the past two years, [so to win is] definitely exciting for a lot of us.”

Like the men, the women “ran in a pack,” according to Surtees.

“Our split between our top five runners was under a minute, which is always one of our goals.” Curtin said. “We were very happy with that.”

Both teams are now eagerly looking forward to the Division III National Championships, a contest that could be the perfect ending to what has been an unforgettable season, Mees said.

“I’ve never had as much confidence in my teammates as I have right now,” he said. “I know that every guy will step up, and we’ll have an impressive finish. It’s been an absolute pleasure running with the guys this year.”

Surtees is both excited and optimistic to compete against high-level competition. According to her, the Eagles, who took last and 32nd place last year, are aiming at a top-20 finish.

“[Nationals are] definitely not like any other race we run. They have the biggest and best competition,” she said. “It’s a reasonable goal. I think we can do it.”

Both teams will conclude their seasons this upcoming Saturday, Nov. 22, at the NCAA Division III Championships in Mason, Ohio.

— By Oliver Rockman, Staff Writer


Senior Tamara Surtees runs to the finish. Surtees led the women's team to a third-place finish at the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships last Saturday. | Photo courtesy of Emory Athletics
Senior Tamara Surtees runs to the finish. Surtees led the women’s team to a third-place finish at the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships last Saturday. | Photo courtesy of Emory Athletics

By Rupsha Basu

News Editor

The Emory men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in the 28th annual University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships, during which the women’s team finished third and the men’s team finished fifth.

The competition was held at Forest Park in St. Louis, Mo. and hosted by Washington University in St. Louis (Wash. U.).

Eight teams make up the UAA in which Emory competes, including Wash. U., the University of Chicago (Ill.), Case Western Reserve (Ohio), Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.), New York University, the University of Rochester (N.Y.) and Brandeis University (Mass.).

Ranked 30th nationally, the women’s team finished four spots better than last year’s finish of seventh place, with a total of 106 points. According to Head Coach John Curtin, the women’s performance “was a real step for them.”

“Seven of the 10 kids ran their fastest times ever on a day that maybe wasn’t a personal record kind of day,” Curtin said.

He added that the two teams that finished before Emory’s team, Wash. U. and the University of Chicago, are likely to be competing for the top trophies at the National Championships.

As Curtin noted, several students ran personal best times in various events. Senior Tamara Surtees clocked in a 6K time of 22:02, which placed her fifth out of 77 runners. Surtees was also the recipient of First Team All-UAA honors, which rewards the best runners among all the teams.

Junior Marissa Gogniat came in 15th in the field with a time of 22:45, the second fastest time for the women’s team.

The third Emory finisher was freshman Halle Markel at 23:08 in 26th place.

Sophomore Sophie Cemaj also clocked a personal best with 23:13, placing her at 29th, and senior Elise Viox ran her personal best of 23:21, putting her in 34th place.

Additionally, Markel’s performance rendered her eligible for the UAA’s All-Freshman Team.

The men’s team finished with a total of 119 points.

According to Curtin, six of the eight men’s UAA teams are nationally ranked.

“It’s incredibly competitive,” Curtin said.

Junior Lukas Mees finished the 8K at 25:42, which is his second-best time and earned him 12th out of 78 competitors. His performance received Second Team All-UAA honors.

“It was a privilege to earn All-Conference honors and lead the team as the first scorer,” Mees wrote in an email to the Wheel.

He added that he is capable of a better performance, and the Regional and National Championships will be an opportunity to prove that.

Senior Tyler Cooke finished with a time of 25:57 in 22nd place and sophomore Grant Murphy finished 24th with a time of 25:59.95.

Cooke commented on the competitive nature of the meet.

“We would’ve liked to get higher [than fifth place], but we ran really well together as a team,” Cooke said. “Everyone came together and had a really strong race.”

Freshman Jordan Flowers finished in 26th place with a time of 26:03 and senior Alex Fleischhacker finished 36th with a time of 26:20.

Mees noted Flowers’ and Murphy’s performances in particular.

“Both had breakthrough races,” Mees said. “Flowers earned a spot on the top-seven All-UAA Rookie Team,” which refers to the top freshmen performers in the UAA.

Curtin and Mees both noted that the men’s team is currently ranked first in the Southeast Region.

Both said they are looking forward to the rest of the championship season.

“We’ve shown that we have the fitness, we have the guts to put it all out there on race day,” Mees said. “The final piece is having the brains to run a smart race. This will be the deciding factor of whether or not our nationals bid is successful.”

Emory’s cross country teams will compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) South/Southeast Regional Championships on Nov. 15.

“The real focal point of our season is … the NCAA championships,” Curtin said.

Curtin said he tells his students to break the season into the non-championship half and the championship half.

“When it’s all over the thing to remember is the championship season,” he said, adding that the UAA is just the first of such competitions.

Cooke also said the team’s performance bodes well for the rest of the championship season.

“It’s a really good sign going forward to Regionals and Nationals,” he said.

Mees added that Assistant Coach Lance Harden’s contributions have been paramount to the team’s success during his first year coaching the men’s team.

“The program will only be getting better,” Mees said. “It’s an exciting time to be a distance runner at Emory.”

— By Rupsha Basu, News Editor