Ospreys run away with first win at JU Short Course Duals

Spinnaker

The UNF cross country team won the Jacksonville University Short Course Duals in commanding form Sept. 3 at the old JU Golf Course.

The Ospreys literally ran away with the competition, sweeping both the men’s and women’s races by taking each of the top five spots, scoring 15 points for each team.

“I’m really happy with our performance today,” head coach Mark VanAlstyne said. “To have both teams sweep top five, it just kind of reaffirms what I thought. We are where we need to be. So far, it looks like we’re mostly healthy at the end of it. I’m thrilled.”

The Ospreys were looking to use the Short Course Duals as just a warm up and almost just as another training opportunity, VanAlstyne said. In essence, it was almost like their preseason. However, VanAlstyne said to come out and dominate in the fashion they did, the team feels confident in their runners and looks forward to competing for an Atlantic-Sun conference championship.

“We were trying to do a few different things today,” VanAlstyne said. “They had a very intense warm-up. They had already done the equivalent of the race before the race started.”

The warm-up VanAlstyne pointed to was a three-mile run around the course about 30 minutes before the actual race. Once the runners started crossing the finish line, it began to look like only Ospreys competing in the race.

Sophomore Shelby Kittrell led the women, who were ranked second in the preseason Atlantic-Sun poll and 10th in the preseason Division I South Region poll. Kittrell took first place on the 3,270 meter course with a 12:28.55 finish. Junior Erin Nixon and sophomore Meggi Emmons took second and third place, respectively with times of 12:39.56 and 12:42.17.

The domination of the field of 38 continued when junior captain Kayla Conrad crossed the finish line with a time of 13:06.74 to take fourth place. Junior Brooke Baumann, who took fifth, finishing at 13:13.05, rounded out the scoring.

“We wanted to use this as a starting race just to see where people are at,” Conrad said. “Our main goal is conference, so we really used this as a workout to build up for our race in two weeks in Gainesville.”

The success didn’t stop with the top five, scorers for the Ospreys. The women also had five additional runners finish in the top 25. Freshman Allison Spiegel finished 11th with a time of 13:54.75. Sophomore Laney Maddox and junior Laura Ragland took 16th and 17th, respectively, crossing the finish line at 14:26.24 and 14:29.38. Freshman Marla Collins took 20th with a time of 15:12.69, and with a time of 15:22.60, sophomore Kristen Smith took 21st place.

With the Short Course Duals being the first race of the season for the Ospreys, both VanAlstyne and Conrad said it was good to get out and run against other teams.

“It definitely helps,” Conrad said. “The competitiveness kicks in especially in the last mile. Anytime you race JU, it’s always going to be competitive. They’re a great team. So it just gives you that extra motivation.”

Freshmen Allison Gubitz and Katherin Midgett finished up for the Ospreys to take 26th and 29th respectively with times of 15:53.24 and 16:29.29.

The men, who were picked to finish fifth in the preseason Atlantic-Sun conference poll, took the top five spots. They also grabbed 10 of the top 15 finishes in a field of 39 runners.

Sophomore James Post led the men through the 4,850 meter course by posting a first place time of 16:12.19. Juniors Cameron Dickerson and Mike Strasser grabbed second and third place when they crossed the finish line at 16:23.44 and 16:28.82, respectively.

Junior Josh Brown finished fourth with a time of 16:32.25, and senior captain Will Pearce finished fifth with a time of 16:40.35. Pearce out-sprinted Bethune-Cookman’s Kevin Rono on the final stretch and passed him right before the finish line to secure that top-five sweep.

“I think it was a good opening race for us as a team,” Pearce said. “I think it showed that we’ve prepared pretty well. As a team, this is probably the strongest I’ve ever seen, and I don’t think anybody has really brought their guns out, yet.”

Freshman Daniel Schmidt finished seventh, with a time of 17:01.08, and sophomore Drew Rowland took eighth, posting a time of 17:08.94. Sophomore Chase Nelson took 12th, crossing the line at 17:22.79. Freshmen Kosta Fotopoulos and Logan O’Baker finished out the Osprey, taking 13th and 15th, respectively, with times of 17:25.30 and 17:35.16.

“I call it a 100 percent success,” VanAlstyne said.

The Ospreys walked away from the Duals with no serious injuries. However, Pearce twisted his ankle before the final sprint of the men’s race. VanAlstyne said Pearce just caught his foot on a root and that it isn’t anything serious.

Four other teams competed in the Short Course Duals. In the women’s race, JU took second while Stetson, Savannah State and Bethune-Cookman finished third, fourth and fifth place, respectively. On the men’s side, Savannah State finished behind the Ospreys in second place while Stetson, Bethune-Cookman, and JU took third, fourth and fifth in that order.

Next up for the Ospreys is the Mountain Dew Invitational Sept. 18, hosted by the University of Florida, at the Mark Bostick Golf Course. The Ospreys consider the Mountain Dew Invitational as their first real test of the season and look forward to competing in it, VanAlstyne said.

“We need to keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing because obviously we look pretty good,” VanAlstyne said. “I think we’re really going to have a good showing at the University of Florida, but I think we’re going to have a better showing at conference and at the NCAA’s at the end of the season.”