BUENA VISTA, Va. – The UNC Asheville women’s cross country team finished in third place at the Big South Conference championships Saturday morning as the Bulldogs posted their highest finish in 10 years at the event.


Coastal Carolina won the meet with 56 points, followed by Liberty with 76 points and UNC Asheville in third with 78 points. High Point came in fourth with 83 points.


The Bulldogs were close to finishing even higher. Red-shirt senior Melanie Kulesz was leading the race late when she fell down with 100 meters to go. Kulesz was able to get up after the fall and finish the race and earn a 14th-place finish for the Blue & White.


Sophomore Erin Dalton led the way for the Bulldogs with a stunning sixth-place finish and earned all-conference honors. She finished the 5K course with a time of 18:40.78. Freshman Sarah Heisner earned all-conference honors as well with a 12th-place finish at 19:07.47. Kulesz’s gutty effort put her in 14th with a time of 19:08.49.


Adrian Etheridge took 20th at 19:23.40. Kylie Smith was 26th at 19:42.81.


“Two years ago we finished in ninth place and last year we were fifth, so we’re making some real progress with our women’s program,” stated Bulldog coach Jesse Norman. “We were leading the race in the middle but just couldn’t finish it off.


“Erin Dalton ran a great race for us along with Sarah Heisner,” added Norman. “Adrienne really picked up at the end by roaring past some other runners to get to 20th. Kylie Smith did a great job, as well.


“Melanie Kulesz ran her heart out before she fell,” Norman also said. “She gave it everything she had and that’s all you can ask for in anybody.”


Kulesz was named to the Big South All-Academic team following the meet.


The men’s team finished right in the middle as the Bulldogs took sixth place on the day. Asheville had 189 points and was led by Brent Schouler’s 28th-place finish as he ran the 8K course in a time of 27:45.07.


Liberty won the meet with 40 points, followed by High Point with 48 points. Campbell took third at 87 points. VMI was fourth at 99, followed by Coastal Carolina with 104.


“We finished about where I thought we would finish,” stated Norman. “I knew we would have to have an incredible day and get some help from some other schools to finish higher. We had a good day as two years ago we were in last place and now we’re in sixth place.


“Our men’s team was hurt this year by some injuries and that hurt us today,” added Norman. “This team is very young and only going to get better.”


Andy Thornburg came in 31st place at 27:57.83, followed by Kevin Paradise in 36th (28:06.23). Freshman Dominic Collichio was 45th at 28:26.34. Patrick Osborne came in 49th at 28:39.19.


Osborne earned a spot on the Big South All-Academic team for the men.