The men’s and women’s cross country teams began their respective seasons Saturday at the Sewanee/Berry Invitational.

The women’s squad finished the meet in second place out of 14 teams, while the men came in fourth of 15. In cross country, a team’s score is the sum of the finishing positions of its top five runners, and the lowest score wins.

“I was pleased,” Head Coach John Curtin said. “You have to start somewhere, and this was a good start and the first step.”

The women’s side finished with 78 points, well behind the only Division I school competing in the meet, Mississippi State (Miss.). Mississippi State finished the meet with a total of 15 points.

However, the Eagles finished comfortably ahead of third place Centre College (Ky.), who scored with 98 points.

University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) finished fourth, and King College (Tenn.) finished fifth.

The men ended the meet with 110 points. Mississippi State won once again with a final tally of 36 points.

Cumberlands and Bryan College (Tenn.) rounded out the top three, and King College finished fifth.

“I am happy with the performance of the team,” junior Eddie Mulder said. “It was good to get our first race under our belts. This was a good starting place for us.”

The women were led by junior Sarah Klass, who came in 15th place out of 138 runners and completed the 6k course in 24:16.

Right behind Klass were senior Calley Edwards and sophomore Tamara Surtees, who finished in 18th and 19th places with times of 24:26 and 24:28, respectively.

Other scorers for the Eagles included sophomore Hannah Smith, finishing in 22nd with a time of 24:32, and freshman Aileen Rivell, whose 24:34 effort was good enough for a 24th place finish.

The women’s strategy for the race was based – at least in the early stages of the race – on the team running as a pack.

“On the women’s side we saw a commitment to team running,” Curtin said. “We hoped to go out and run together, at least for the first two miles.”

The strategy demonstrated its success through the women’s finishing positions being bunched tightly together.

The men were led by Mulder, who finished the race in fourth place out of 134 competitors.

He completed the 8k course in a personal best time of 26:32.

His game plan for the race was to start out slow and then close strong. The tactic proved to be effective Saturday; he also expects it to pay dividends in the future.

“Coach told me to relax and run the beginning like a workout, then pick it up and get more competitive each mile,” Mulder said. “If I work on my focus, going out slow then working my way through the field, I think the season will be a good one.”

Freshman Lukas Mees finished second for Emory and 14th overall with a time of 27:04.

Junior Alex Fleischhacker was Emory’s third finisher, and his 27:35 effort merited him 22nd place overall.

“This was Lukas’ first collegiate race and a great race for him,” Mulder said. “Alex is recovering from an injury and really trained hard over the summer to get back in shape. I expect both of them to be key contributors to the team as the season moves on.”

Rounding out the scoring for the men’s team was sophomore Cameron Wheeler and junior Hank Ashforth.

Wheeler and Ashforth finished in 40th and 51st place, respectively, with times of 28:17 and 28:58.

Both squads will next race on Saturday in the Georgia State Invitational at the Nash Farm Battlefield in Hampton, Ga.

By Bennett Ostdiek