Emory’s cross country team started of the season with a commanding victory in the Watermelon Run at Berry College (Ga.) Sept. 1. The men’s and women’s teams were the top teams among five different schools.

The women’s team dominated, with their top five runners finishing within the top seven of 72 runners. Those women contributed to a No. 1 finish ahead of No. 2 Berry College, No. 3 Covenant College (Ga.), No. 4 Piedmont College (Ga.) and No. 5 Wesleyan College (Ga.).

Best among the women, senior Gabrielle Stravach finished No. 1 overall with a 6K time of 22:44, more than a minute faster than the No. 2 runner, her teammate junior Maeve Andrews. Following Stravach and Andrews in Emory’s top five, freshman Abby Durfee, sophomore Meredith Hughes and senior Hanna Saadegh-Vaziri all contributed to Emory’s first-place victory.

In the eighth first-place performance of her career, Stravach showed that she could easily pick up from where she left off last year, when she finished No. 1 in all seven of Emory’s races.

Emory’s women recorded an average time of 24:04 among their top five finishers. The women left the competition in the dust, with the next best team finishing more than a minute behind Emory’s average time for their top five runners.  

The men finished No. 1 above No. 2 Oglethorpe University (Ga.), No. 3 Covenant College, No. 4 Berry College and No. 5 Piedmont College. Emory’s top five male runners finished within the top 11 of the 79 men participating in the race.

Leading the pack, sophomore Marty Pimentel finished eight seconds before the next best runner, teammate junior Bennett Shaw, with a 26:57 8K time. For the first time in his collegiate career, Pimentel posted a first-place finish.

Head Coach John Curtin raved about Pimentel’s outstanding day on the course.

“Marty looked really strong,” Curtin said. “He and [Shaw] ran together for the first three and a half miles, and then [Pimentel] felt good and he went for it.”

For Pimental, the first-place finish was a solid start to the season.

“I was pretty much where I wanted to be,” Pimentel said. “I felt pretty fit going, and I performed the way that I had wanted to.”

With several of his teammates also showing potential for the season ahead, Pimentel said that he strives to remain among Emory’s top runners.

“I hope to be among the top of the team,” Pimentel said. “Our team is really good this year, so it’s going to be really competitive to see who’s up there in the top group.”

Also posting strong performances, Shaw, freshmen Jacob Hedgepeth and Egan Kattenberg and senior Shane Sullivan were all among Emory’s top five finishers. They ended with an average time of 27:34. Their average was 32 seconds better than No. 2 Oglethorpe’s time of 28:06.

Given their dominant performances, the Emory teams are keeping their results in perspective.

“There wasn’t a lot of competition,” Curtin said. “So we were kind of competing amongst ourselves more than anything.”

The head coach also established pace goals for all of his runners.

“About half of [our runners] performed at the level that we hoped for,” Curtin said. “Some went a little faster than we wanted and some didn’t do as well as hoped, but the majority of the kids hit their pace goals.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams will compete again Sept. 9, at the Furman Classic in Greenville, S.C.