Expectations still high for USF cross country

The University of South Florida’s cross country teams didn’t quite meet their own expectations Saturday at the Auburn Invitational, but USF coach Greg Thiel said his teams still ran a good race in the final tune-up before the Conference USA championship on Nov. 2.

The women’s team finished fifth in the 30-team race, and the men also placed in the top third in Auburn, finishing ninth.

“We didn’t do as well as we would have liked,” Thiel said. “But we expect a lot from our teams.”

The women’s team finished 40 points behind first-place Virginia Tech. Host Auburn finished in second with 94 points, and Georgia Tech rounded out the top three with 97 points.

Sophomore standout Christa Benton once again led the women’s team, finishing third overall with a time of 16 minutes, 57.31 seconds in the 5K event.

“Christa ran extremely well,” Thiel said. “And she did it against some All-American runners.”

Freshman Jessica Hellender had another good finish, claiming 11th place (17:20.59), and seniors Cori Kill (17:31.39) and Kristy Fuller (17:46.35) rounded out the other top Bulls finishers, placing 13th and 30th, respectively.

The men’s team finished 245 points behind winner SMU. Clemson finished second with 97 points, and Georgia came in third with 150 points.

Senior Andrew Smith, who finished ninth in the 8K event with a time of 24:10.43, continued to pace the team as he’s been the fastest Bull in all five meets.

Junior Adam Chumbley (25:04.78) was the next Bulls runner to finish, placing 34th.

Freshman Sean Burris finished in 47th place (25:17.14), and fellow freshman Derek Lincoln placed 85th (26:02.92).

The Bulls have the next week off to prepare for the conference championship in Hattiesburg, Miss. A conference title has been both teams’ goal since the start of the season, and it still remains the primary focus.

“The conference championship is what we want,” Thiel said.