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.