BY JAMES STEMPLE, STAFF WRITER
George Mason’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams dashed to success in their first race of the season at the Spider Alumni Open Invitational, which was hosted by the University of Richmond in Mechanicsville, Virginia, Sept. 3.
Although the men and women did not run their standard distances, their results at the meet remained unaffected, as both the men and women finished fourth.
The men, instead of racing the standard 8K (which is about 5 miles), raced a 5K (about 3.1 miles). Meanwhile, the women raced a 3K (about 2 miles) instead of their normal 5K.
“It’s a really low-key meet, just to see where we are as a team and individuals,” distance runner Luke Sharkey said.
Sharkey finished 16th in the race with a time of 15:39.2.
Just down the line, his teammates, sophomores Dustin Jutras (15:59.3) and Jonathan Schloth (15:59.9), senior Brent Coulter (16:05.4) and sophomore Trent Lancaster (16:06.7), rounded out the team’s score to 99 points, securing them fourth place.
On the women’s side, distance runner Ciara Donohue led the team in the 3K in seventh place with a time of 11:10.09.
Junior Amber Hawkins (11:23.0) and freshmen Kyla Carte (11:41.9), Sarah Richart (11:59.7) and Khalilah Hamer (12:14.7) combined to bring the team to 114 points, also at fourth place.
“I was a little nervous going into it, but we had a lot of successful training over the summer so I wasn’t too worried,” Donohue said on her performance.
Before the season, the men’s and women’s teams were recognized by the Atlantic 10 Conference coaches preseason poll and in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association Preseason Regional Rankings. These polls and rankings are measures of expected success as agreed upon by coaches and administrators within the collegiate track and field community.
The men were picked to finish fifth in the A-10 poll, as well as picked to finish 14th in the Southeast region by the U.S. Track and Field poll.
Meanwhile, the women’s were picked to finish tenth in the A-10 poll.
Sharkey says “the preseason poll isn’t accurate at all” because “there’s a lot it doesn’t take into account. We’ve got new runners and returning runners that have a lot of potential for this season.”
Last year, the men’s team was voted to finish first in the 2015 A-10 Conference Coaches’ preseason poll, but finished fifth. Their fifth place finish allowed them to advance to the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships, where they placed twelfth.
Last year’s 12th-place finish looms over the team, and will be used as motivation to do better this coming season, according to Sharkey.
“This year I think we could be top 10—maybe top 5—in the A-10’s,” he said.
The women’s team, meanwhile, was voted to finish seventh in last year’s A-10 poll. They finished 11th, which qualified them for the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships, where they ultimately placed 25th.
“I think the women’s team will do a lot better in the A-10s compared to last year,” Donohue, who remains optimistic about the upcoming season, said. “I’m excited about to upcoming cross-country season and where it will take us.”
The men’s and women’s cross-country teams recently participated in the James Madison Invitational on Sept. 10, where the men placed first and the women third. They will host the Mason Invitational on Oct. 1.