The Emory men’s and women’s cross country teams both finished No. 3 out of eight teams Oct. 28 at the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships at Garret Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park, N.J. Saturday marked the first time since 2009 that Emory’s men had finished within the top five at the UAA Championships.
Falling behind No. 1 Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) (Mo.) and No. 2 University of Chicago (UChicago), the women’s team’s top five runners put up a total 6K time of 2:03.18.
Senior captain Gabrielle Stravach continued her incredible season, recording an outstanding No. 2 overall finish. With her 23:14 time, Stravach fell just behind UChicago junior Khia Kurtenbach, who crossed the finish line seven seconds ahead of Stravach.
With prior appearances at the UAA Championships, Stravach noted that her prior experience was valuable not only Saturday but throughout the season.
“The fact that this was my fourth time racing at cross country [UAA Championships] gave me a lot of experience that has taught me a lot,” Stravach said. “Experience from being part of many races and increasing my mileage has prepared to have the season that I’ve been having so far.”
Head Coach John Curtin emphasized the importance of Stravach’s No. 2 finish, noting her performance key for the team’s top three finish.
“[Stravach] ran lights out, and without that we would have been in big trouble,” Curtin said. “It helps to have a national caliber runner like her. It’s fair to say that she should be considered one of the top dozen runners in the country.”
Juniors Kayla O’Shea and Kaylee Slade and freshmen Susie Martin and Abby Durfee were also among Emory’s top five finishers, all of whom finished in the top 30 runners in a field of 76 runners.
Stravach said that the long length and uneven footing of the course made for poor race conditions.
“Although the course wasn’t ideal, it was really good for us to have a competing mentality rather than following a specific race plan,” Stravach said.
On the men’s side, Emory slated in at No. 3 with a total 8K time of 2:14:21, about three minutes slower than No. 1 WashU’s pace. Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) finished No. 2.
Headlining the men’s performance, senior Shane Sullivan crossed the finish line No. 3 overall with a time of 26:09, a fraction of a second behind the No. 2 finisher. Sullivan turned in his best performance of the season and his second consecutive competition as Emory’s top runner.
Curtin praised the strong performances of the team’s more experienced runners.
“Our veterans came through in a big way, especially [Sullivan], who ran a brilliant race,” Curtin said. “He was a little bit beat up early in the season, but we knew he’d be ready when it was time for the championship season, and he showed up in a big way.”
Senior Max Brown, junior Bennett Shaw, sophomore Luis Torres and freshman Matt Dillon rounded out Emory’s top five athletes. Each had a top 35 finish out of a field of 77 runners.
According to Sullivan, Saturday’s performance was a good indicator that the team is poised for a successful championship season.
“Our team is on the come up and is ready for a solid end to the season,” Sullivan said. “More focus on the little things have allowed us to perform well.”
Curtin noted that the men’s Saturday finish was their best showing at the UAA Championships in several years.
“The men had been stuck in fifth place at UAA [Championships] for the past four years,” Curtin said. “[Saturday] was the guy’s best finish at UAA [Championships] since their No. 2 finish in 2009.”
The cross country teams will compete again Nov. 11 when they travel to Newport News, Va., to participate in the NCAA Division III South/Southeast Regional Championship.