Scoring optional for Bulls

There were no winners and losers in the Indiana Open Saturday, but USF’s Andrew Smith walked away with the best time in the 7k run.

The USF cross country teams opened their 2002 campaigns in Bloomington, Ind., but since there were only three full men’s teams running and a smattering of partial squads, the hosts elected not to score the men’s race.

“It’s real early in the season, and they didn’t have enough team entries,” USF coach Greg Thiel said. “There were only three full teams, so they decided to not score it. Basically, it was just us and Indiana, and the rest were a bunch of small colleges. So technically, we really open (Sept. 14) in Athens, Ga.”

Smith outdistanced the Hoosiers’ John Jefferson to claim first place in the men’s run. Smith clocked in with a time of 22:10.4, besting Jefferson and Bart Phariss of Indiana by almost 19 seconds.

“Adam’s a fifth-year senior and a real character kid,” Thiel said. “He does all the right things. He’s the quiet leader of this team. He does it in the classroom, in practice and at the meets. Adam has run in a lot of big races.”

Trailing just behind that group was Bulls’ junior Adam Chumbley, who came in fourth with a time of 22:32.5. Sean Burris was USF’s other runner in the top-10 of the 30-man field.

For the USF women’s cross country team, Indiana picked up the top two finishers in the 5k race to slip past the Bulls by 20 points to take the women’s team title.

The Indiana Open was a great kickoff to a new season for Christa Benton, who topped the USF finishers with a time of 18:19.3 to garner third place. The 2001 Conference USA Freshman Runner of the Year was joined by seniors Kristy Fuller and Cori Kill as well as freshman Jessica Hellender in the top-10.

“Both teams are really strong, but we’re not very deep,” Thiel said. “We’re one injury away from being an average team.

“The women have a real nice blend of young and old,” Thiel said. “The early season meets are to help us run as a team and let the younger kids learn the ropes and help them along. We have a strong emphasis on winning the conference championship, and everything until then is building up to that.”

Thiel expects a much different environment, especially for the men’s team, when the Bulls travel to the University of Georgia for the Bulldog Stampede.

“(In Indiana), we let the kids work on race strategy because cross country is one of the true team sports,” Thiel said. “Our No. 5 runner is as important as our No. 1. In basketball, if you have Michael Jordan on the team, I could play. But in running, no matter how great your No. 1 is, you need a strong No. 5.

“We as coaches want to win, and that’s a different pressure they’ll face next week in Athens (that they didn’t have this week),” Thiel said. “We need to run as a team and run smart. They’ll be 12 teams there, so we have a good opportunity.”

Contact Anthony Gagliano and The Oracle sports staff at