Cross country teams finish 11th at Veterans Park

Spinnaker

The UNF men’s and women’s cross country teams set new records at the NCAA South Region Championships Nov. 13 in Veterans Park in Hoover, Ala.

On the men’s side, the Ospreys finished in 11th place, with 287 points, the best in school history since placing 21st in 2009 with 517 points. The Ospreys were the second team in the Atlantic Sun Conference to win the race, behind Belmont, who finished in eighth with 236 points.

Mike Strasser led UNF and placed in 47th with a time of 31:56.13, a career best for the junior. Close behind was senior Will Pearce, who placed 51st, with a time of 32:07.05 and junior Josh Brown, who crossed the line in 32:48.49, earning 77th place. Both ran career bests.

“I think the guys ran an outstanding race, if anything it was probably even a step up from their performance at conference,” head coach Mark Van Alstyne said.

The women’s team also placed 11th place. Sophomore Shelby Kittrell, who crossed the line in 24th place, with a career-best time of 20:52.15, led the Ospreys. Junior Erin Nixon placed 47th with a career-best time of 21:34.41.

Kittrell earned her first All-South Region honor, another first in Osprey history.

“We were happy with this place last year but a little disappointed this year because we had an unlucky start that could have cost us a few places,” Nixon said. “While the team place wasn’t what we had hoped, everyone ran personal best times so we can’t be disappointed with that.”

Besides the competition, the course has a significant impact on how well runners place. This course was made up of fine gravel, which was fast but caused breathing problems, Nixon said.

Cameron Dickerson was sent to the emergency room with dehydration and fatigue, Nixon said.

Not only does each race set a new challenge, but where the team starts is also a key in how the race starts. If the team is set up in the middle of the crowd, it is hard to get a fast start, especially with over 150 runners in the race.

The men’s team got a good start from their box, but the women’s team got trapped, VanAlstyne said, leaving the runners trying to play catch-up the rest of the race.

Van Alstyne wants to take the teams to bigger races next year so they have experience racing with hundreds of people at the start line, Nixon said.

The women were seeded fifth in the race and didn’t finish as well as they had hoped, but saw great things happen in the race.

“Overall we had a great season, so we can’t complain, and we’ll just look to do better next year and use it as motivation,” Kayla Conrad said.

As far as next year goes, the women’s team does not have any graduating seniors, so every runner will be returning to compete, Conrad said.

The teams have a short break and will return to practice for indoor track in the spring.