The University of South Florida women’s cross country team continued to improve on its season by winning the Gator Invitational in Gainesville Saturday. However, the men’s team didn’t fare as well, finishing in sixth place.
Assistant coach Rita Arndt said she was very happy with the way both teams competed this past weekend.
“It was a great meet for us,” Arndt said. “The men and women both did a great job.”
The women won their first meet of the season, finishing nine points ahead of second-place Kentucky and 36 points ahead of host Florida, which came in third.
The women placed four runners in the top seven, led by sophomore Christa Benton’s second victory in the last three races. Benton finished the 6k course in 20 minutes, 55.88 seconds.
Freshman teammate Jessica Hellender tailed behind Benton in second place, finishing the course in 21:19.15.
Seniors Kristy Fuller (21:29.96) and Cori Kill (21:33.64) rounded out the rest of the Bulls in the top seven, finishing fourth and seventh, respectively.
“To see the women dominate the field that powerfully was a great thing to see,” Arndt said.
USF’s men’s team finished sixth, three points behind Miami. Princeton finished in first place, 34 points ahead of host Florida. North Florida came in third with 152 points.
Fifth-year senior Andrew Smith, who continues to improve on an outstanding season, once again led the men’s team. Smith earned a second-place finish in the 8k event, completing the course in 24:39.04, a personal best.
“Andrew ran a really great race,” Arndt said. “He ran pretty much by himself the entire race and was ahead of the rest of the pack by a significant margin.”
Freshman Sean Burris had the second-best time for the Bulls, finishing in 24th place (26:00.89) and junior Adam Chumbley wasn’t far behind Burris, placing 28th (26:06.78).
Arndt said some of the woes the men are experiencing are due to the loss of one of their top runners from a year ago.
“If we didn’t suffer the loss of one of our top runners this year, we would be in a better position,” Arndt said. “We’re just missing our No. 5 runner. It is very important in cross country to have a strong No. 5 runner.”
Arndt said one reason the women are doing better than the men’s team is because the women have a strong No.5 runner. USFs men’s team will need someone to step up and fill the void at No.5 in order to have a chance to do well the rest of the season.
The Bulls have one more meet remaining until the Conference USA championship on Nov. 2. The Bulls travel to Auburn, Ala., for the Auburn Invitational Oct. 19.
Arndt said the Bulls would use the last meet of the season to sharpen up on their running skills and also look to have some fun.
“Auburn is always really fun,” Arndt said. “I know (the teams are) prepared. It will be a meet where we can work on our speed.”I think we’ll do really well.”