Last weekend, mid and long distance Emory runners travelled to East Tennessee State University for the Buccaneer Invitational, while others travelled to the University of South Carolina’s USC Open for sprint and pole vault events. Although neither meet included team scoring, strong Division I and II competition drove multiple Eagles to impressive performances.
In Johnson City, Tenn., Sophomore Grant Murphy wowed with a mark of 8:44.42 in the 3,000-meter run, good for fourth place both in the meet and in University Athletic Association (UAA) competition to this point. In the 5,000-meter race, junior Lukas Mees’s time of 15:35.08 notched him an 18th place finish.
The Eagles were especially successful in the mile run, led by freshman Max Brown whose 4:16.91 time — the second-fastest in the UAA and 42nd-fastest in Division III this season — earned him fourth place both at the meet and in the program’s history. He was followed by freshmen Jordan Flowers in 13th place, Shane Sullivan in 14th, and Michael McBane in 16th with times of 4:23.59, 4:23.98 and 4:25.09, respectively.
“When I stop and look back on the weekend, I think Max Brown’s performance was the highlight for us,” Head Coach John Curtin said.
Murphy, Brown, Flowers and sophomore Ian McIsaac teamed up to take second in the distance medley relay with a time of 10:34.07. Seniors Kevin Delaney and Scott Greathouse also shined at the meet, Delaney in the 800-meter run, placing fifth with a time of 1:58.77, and Greathouse in the high jump with an 18th-place height of 1.87 meters.
“It was a good meet for us,” Delaney said. “A lot of our distance runners had a strong showing.”
The women’s team saw senior Stephanie Crane notch an eighth-place finish in the seeded 800-meter run with a time of 2:20.35 and a third-place finish in the seeded mile with a mark of 5:09.33, ranking her fifth in the UAA. Crane’s two successful races are especially impressive, Curtin said, because they took place with very little rest time in between.
Senior Marissa Gogniat also impressed in the seeded 3,000-meter run with a time of 10:36.34 and a 10th-place finish, while junior Aileen Rivell’s 18:56.53 time earned her a 15th-place finish in the 5,000-meter run.
Sophomore Alexa Young placed first in the unseeded 800-meter run with a time of 2:21.49.
For Young, who had not competed since the Eagles’ last trip to ETSU on Jan. 17, “More than anything, it was just about getting back out there,” she said.
At the USC Open, freshman Phillip Greenfield breezed through a 55-meter dash in 6.87 seconds, placing him 37th in the event. He was closely followed by junior Spencer Koh, who cleared a height of 4.20 meters to win the pole vault, and earned 38th place with a time of 6.89 seconds for his 55-meter dash.
On the women’s side, Caitlin Cheeseboro succeeded in both the 55-meter dash and 55-meter hurdles with a 7.86 second 26th-place finish and a 8.87 second ninth-place finish, respectively. Elaina Kim led the Eagles’ pole vault effort, clearing 3.20 meters for second place, followed by freshman Dara Liss, who cleared 3.00 meters for sixth place.
It is not uncommon for the D-III Eagles to take on high level competition; Curtin has consistently pitted them against D-I and D-II athletes throughout the season. The UAA is one of the best D-III conferences in the country, but the D-III track in the Southeast tends to not be particularly competitive. And Emory’s UAA counterparts gain a certain advantage in frequently facing top D-III teams.
“I think that’s far more motivating. Up there, you’re running against kids that you might see at the National Champtionship,” Curtin said. “You develop rivalries, and it gives the kids a little more of a sense of belonging. Here, we’re competition against a lot of schools we’ll never see at a conference meet.”
Still, the Eagles’ trips to D-I or D-II tracks are not in vein.
“Honestly, we were up against some pretty strong D-I schools, but having that competition was pretty helpful. It can be intimidating, but it helped us and pushed us to reach solid marks across the board,” Young said.
The UAA Championships are scheduled for Feb. 28 and March 1 at the University of Chicago (Ill.), and the Eagles have only two more opportunities to earn a spot.
“Everybody on our team is capable of running amazing times. We could win UAAs, or at least do really well, but it’s definitely going to take heart,” Young said. “This is kind of our last chance, and people realize it.”
The Eagles will again split up this weekend, sending mostly top-half mid-distance runners and relay teams to the Samford Invitational at the Birmingham (Ala.) Crossplex, and sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers to Sewanee, Tenn for the Tiger Invitational.
“We’re definitely in the thick of things,” Delaney said.