This past weekend, Emory’s cross country program split up to attend two different meets: the 15th Annual Louisville Sports Commission Cross Country Classic in Louisville, Ky., and the 11th Annual Jacksonville State University (JSU) Foothills Invitational in Oxford, Ala. The cross country teams performed well at the Louisville Classic, with the women finishing third and the men taking fifth. In the JSU Invitational, the women finished fourth and the men took third.

Head Coach John Curtin explained that runners attended the Louisville Classic because it served as “the pre-national meet.”

“[The Louisville Classic was] an opportunity for us to run on the same course they will contest the national championship in November,” Curtin said.

The Louisville Classic has been a highly touted race, given that it will also be the grounds that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-III Championships will be held on this season November 19. The No. 16 Emory women’s squad came away with 128 points for a third place finish among the 39 teams that entered. The team fell short only to first-place finisher No. 14 Hope College (103 points) (Mich.) and runner-up Bates College (108 points) (Maine). The women had five personal bests and they all finished under 23 minutes, a rare occurrence, according to Curtin.

The No. 34 Emory men’s squad was also quite successful, coming home with fifth place out of 43 teams on a 134-point performance, following No. 2 North Central University (26 points) (Ill.) in first , No. 5 Pomona-Pitzer (108 points) (Calif.) in second , No. 13 Carnegie Mellon University (111 points) (Pa.) in third and No. 18 Johns Hopkins University (130 points) (Md.) in fourth.

Junior Gabrielle Stravach led the way for the Eagles in the 6K, with finishing 17th among 332 runners with an impressive time of 22:23, the second best time she has achieved in her career. Junior Tru Powell finished right behind Stravach, placing 18th with a personal best of 22:27. Megan Waples also achieved a personal record, as she clocked in at 22:49 to place 30th among all entries.

Making his first competitive appearance this season on Saturday, senior Lukas Mees was a major highlight on the men’s side. Displaying no hints of being out of practice, Mees led his team in the 8K with a time of 25:37 to reach 19th place among 388 entries. Not far behind, freshman Luis Torres, Jr. posted a 21st overall finish by clocking in at 25:39.

“We knew that Luis [Torres] was going to be an outstanding freshman, but he has exceeded all expectations,” Mees said. “He runs with the indefatigable will of the legendary Tarahumara tribe in his blood.”

There seemed to be top-five finishes for Emory’s cross country team as far as the eye could see on Saturday, as another talented cohort of Eagles competed in the White Division (non Division-I programs) at the JSU Foothills Invitational.

The women’s group earned fourth place out of 10 teams with 126 points, following University of Montevallo (18 points) (Va.) in first, University of North Georgia (53 points) in second and Tennessee Wesleyan (86 points) (Tenn.) in third. Freshman Isabelle Robbins was atop the pack for Emory, finishing 44th out of 165 5K runners (in both the Red and White Divisions) with a time of 19:31. With a mark of 19:57 to earn 58th overall, junior Dyess Verfurth was the next closest Eagle to finish.

The men placed third among 11 teams with 89 points, following only Montevallo (43 points) and Tennessee Wesleyan (83 points). Freshman Chase Gornbein was the top contributor thanks to a time of 27:06, ranking 49th out of 161 entries. Almost right behind him was senior Phil Edwards at 27:08 and a 51st overall finish.

The Eagles look forward to having the next weekend off.

“You can’t race every week. You can only ask these kids to go to the line so many times every year,” Curtin said.  “We try to spread the competitions out over the season so we don’t get fatigued or injured. And we’re going to take this weekend off and use fall break to train and make sure also to have the kids catch up on their studies and their rest.”

The team hopes to realize the fruits of their preparation as they split up again to attend two meets Oct. 15: the Inter-regional Border Battle in Glassboro, N.J., and the local Berry Invitational.