Cross Country Teams Defend Home Turf in Opening Meet

The Western Carolina men’s and women’s cross country teams opened their season on August 31st at home in the Western Carolina Invitational. Both teams defended home-field advantage well as the women won on their side and the men finished third. Both teams had to deal with harsh weather conditions. Rain, wind, thunder, and lightning lengthened the event as the race had to be stopped after a mile and a quarter. A two-hour delay ensued before the race could be finished. In spite of the weather, the WCU women dominated the event as they took the top four spots. Senior Kerrie Savery led the charge with a 12:14.5 in the 5-K. Sophomore Lindsay Groce finished second with a 12:19.1, while freshman Jordan Gaddy finished third in her first collegiate event with a time of 12:20.1. Junior Skye Aiello rounded out the top four with a time of 12:28.4. The Western women had three other competitors in the event as Leigh Nicholson finished 7th, Annie Bailey finished 16th, and Taylor Zimmerman finished 27th. The women won the event with a total of 16 points as they beat out Gardner-Webb (53 points) and Mars Hill (55). Carson-Newman would withdraw from the event due to the rain delay. The men didn’t fare quite as well with the weather elements or the competition as they finished third out of four teams. Sophomore Stephen Hammond led the way for the Catamount men as he finished 12th overall with a time of 21:30.5 in the 8-K. Clemson runner Tyler Morey won the event with a time of 20:34.7 as the ACC competitors swept four of the top five spots on the men’s side. Other competitors for the men included Jesse Ramirez (19th, 21:53.9), Todd Davidson (20th, 21:58.0), Josh Walker (21st, 22:02.2), Stephon Roach (24th, 22:12.2), Jake Clawson (26th, 22:21.6), Field Miller (31st, 22:51.8), Aaron Grant (37th, 23:48.0), Drew Tucker (42nd, 24:36.2), and Jestin Jennings (47th, 26:35.2). Clemson won the men’s side easily with a score of 19 points. Mars Hill finished second with 59 points, while Western posted 74 points. Gardner-Webb finished last with 78 points, while Carson-Newman withdrew once again. Long-time head coach Danny Williamson will try to improve and prepare the Cats for their next meet which is also at home as Western will host the Catamount Classic on Saturday, September 15. The meet will be the second of three meets (counting the SoCon Championships) that Western will hold this season. WCU has not hosted this many XC meets in one season since 2002.