SWANNANOA, N.C. - The UNC Asheville cross country team's first home invitational since 2007 proved fruitful Saturday with the Bulldog men taking the win, and the women placing second.
The Bulldog men stormed away with the win, scoring just 19 total points behind sophomore Kevin Paradise's victory. Paradise ran 26 minutes, 2.68 seconds to lead UNC Asheville over second-place Wofford's 47 points and Brevard's 76.
"This was the race of the year so far for us," head coach Jesse Norman said. "And that's exciting!"
UNC Asheville reached a first under Norman, as this is the first time in his tenure that he's had four runners logging finishes under 27 minutes in the same season. He says his men's squad is young, but constantly progressing.
Today's race concluded with Paradise's top spot then the Bulldogs taking spots three through 10. Freshman Jeremy Gower finished third in 26:28.18, unattached UNC Asheville runner Brent Shuter in fourth (26:34.11), freshman Andy Thornburg in fifth (26:42.53), freshman David Ryland in sixth (26:58.67), freshman Ryan Catrine in seventh (27:03.61), sophomore Elliot Pahel-Short in eighth (27:13.17), freshman Skyler Winchester in ninth (27:24.73), and senior Ryan Blackmon finishing 10th in 27:29.73.
In the women's race, the Bulldogs lost a tight race with Wofford, which beat them 30-39. Charleston Southern placed third with 64 points, and Milligan rounded out the competition with 109 points.
UNC Asheville produced some strong individual results, as senior Emma Bussard and junior Melanie Kulesz went 1-2, running 18:19.17 and 18:35.41. Bussard's finish was a nine-second personal-best time. This 1-2 punch could be a precursor to success in the second half of the season, Norman believes, if his team can improve on tightening up their top five runners.
Norman said that top to bottom, the women didn't run their best race of the season, but looked at the positives of his runners who had strong runs.
Finishing in 10th place for UNC Asheville was sophomore Adrian Etheridge, who crossed the line in 19:23.91. Freshman Kelsie Rubino followed in 11th (19:31.51), freshman Scarlett Beamon finished 15th (19:46.35), junior Rachel Carson in 16th (19:48.58), and Clair Powell, a senior, took 25th (20:25.58) for the Bulldogs' top-seven.
"We had some girls do some really good things today," Norman said of his team's performance. "But Wofford's 1-5 spread beat ours today."
With this meet marking the end of the first half of the season, as the Bulldogs progress toward the Pre-National Meet and the championship portion of the season, the team will focus on cutting back the volume of miles, increasing the intensity of workouts and going into races fresher.
The Pre-National Meet will be hosted by the University of Louisville at Tom Sawyer State Park on Saturday, Oct. 13 at 10 a.m.