For the second consecutive year, the USF women’s cross-country team finished second to Marquette at the Conference USA Championship, hosted by East Carolina at Lake Kristi, N.C. on Saturday. Marquette scored 46 points, while the Bulls scored 60 points. The team from TCU finished third with an overall score of 85.
“We knew that Marquette was going to be a strong team. They are ranked 15th in the national poll. Coming in, we thought that we would have a chance. We all ran as well as we can, and came up a little short,” said senior Tara Quinn.
The Bulls’ second-place finish in the women’s 6-kilometer race was the result of a great team effort. Two runners placed in the top five: Quinn finished second with a time of 20 minutes, 6.7 seconds, and junior Kristy Fuller finished fourth with a time of 20:17.1. Quinn’s twin sister Tiffany (20:50.6, 15th), freshman Christa Benton (20:53.0, 16th) and junior Cori Kill (21:23.1, 23rd) also finished in the top 25, while Jennifer Walczuk (21:48.4) and Ashley McComas (21:50.5) finished 34th and 35th, respectively.Top 15 finishes by Fuller and the Quinn sisters earned them all-conference honors. Christa Benton earned Freshman of the Year honors by finishing first among all freshmen women.
“All the girls ran personal bests. Everyone ran hard and tried to stay together. It was an excellent performance by all,” said coach Heather Curtiss.
The conditions for the race were perfect, according to Tara Quinn. The weather at race time was in the low 50s and the course was relatively flat, which allowed runners to post fast times. The strong gusts of wind did not have too much effect on the runners, according to Quinn.
The USF men’s team went into the meet as the defending C-USA champions. However, the Bulls finished 11th out of 12 teams with a team score of 255. The men’s team from Tulane took home the championship with a team score of 61.
The men’s team entered this year with only one runner from last year’s team, sophomore Adam Chumbley (26:11.2, 66th). The Bulls were led by freshman Jim Vitale, who finished 12th with a time of 24:23.8. Freshman Doug Brown finished 45th with a time of 25:34.9. Vitale earned all-conference honors by finishing in the top 15. Vitale missed out on the Freshman of the Year Award by a mere three seconds.
“It is outstanding for freshmen to finish in the top 50. It was very impressive for Vitale to finish in the top 15,” Curtiss said.Curtiss was very impressed by the overall performance by both of her teams, and said she was exceptionally impressed with the way they ran as a team and stayed together.
“This was what we had been training for all year. This was the most important race of our season. The teams came into the race very focused and prepared,” Curtiss said.
In two weeks, the Bulls will compete at the NCAA Regional Championships at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
- James Tai covers cross country and can be reached at email@example.com