The Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Teams pushed through rain and extremely high levels of humidity to finish fourth and first, respectively, among Division II, Division III and NAIA teams at the Furman Classic last Saturday.

Senior co-captain Tamara Surtees finished first among all non-Division I runners at the meet, with a 6k time of 22:20, a full 27 seconds faster than the second place finisher. Senior co-captains Stephanie Crane and Marissa Gogniat finished third and sixth, respectively, with times of 22:53 and 22:59, respectively.

Senior co-captain Alex Fleischhacker led the Men’s Team, finishing 16th, with a time of 26:17. Behind him were co-captain seniors Lukas Mees and co-captain Tyler Cooke in 18th and 20th place with times of 26:38 and 26:46, respectively.

The younger members of the teams pulled their weight as well, six of the men and nine of the women also finishing within the top-50, seven of whom were freshmen.

Head coach, John Curtin was especially optimistic coming out of the meet, pointing out that, had they also been competing against the D-I teams at the meet, the Women’s Team would have still finished in 6th place.Surtees said she believes this is the strongest team Emory has had over her four years at the school, citing the 12 freshmen the girls team gained in the off season as major contributors. The Men’s Team also gained six freshmen.

“We were really fortunate to find kids who were able to gain admission to Emory.” Curtain said. “We have a limited budget and can only travel with so many, but we push the envelope on young kids. Sometimes you just don’t know how good a kid will be in the future.”

Of the 23 runners rostered on the men’s team and the 26 on the Women’s Team, only 10 for Regionals and seven for Nationals will be able to represent each. Curtain, Cooke and Surtees all cited the large, fast team, as a source of friendly competition that helps every runner improve.

“It’s a bit of a musical chairs game right now. The people in the front today might not be tomorrow,” Curtain said.

Emory’s runners – and runners from other schools – generally ran faster times at the Furman Classic last year, but a few variables were in play this time around. According to Cook, he humidity was around 100 percent and the course was actually about 300 meters short last year. The course is also unique because it includes three obstacles runners must jump over: two sets of hay bales and a log.

“We were training in [humid and warn] conditions day in and day out, so that helped prepare out kids,” Curtain said.

With a break of more than a month until the Eagles’ next meet, Curtain is most concerned with keeping the team healthy and safely walking the line between extreme fitness and injury.

“Right now, we’re starting to see kids getting sick and kids coming down with Strep,” Curtain said.

He expects a lot from his runners, who don’t begin their official pre-season until the week before freshman orientation, and they generally step up to his expectations.

“In an endurance sport like this, the kids decide how good they’re going to be during the summer,” he said. “I tell them, ‘You can’t be like everyone else on this campus. You have to choose your parties. You have to get enough sleep. You can’t do everything you want if you want to perform your best.”

The Eagles return to action Sept. 27 in Pensacola, Florida or the Gulf Coast Stampede.

– By Zak Hudak