The University of South Florida women’s cross country team got an unexpected boost during the Conference USA meet Nov. 2 to help the team finish in second place for the second consecutive year.
The boost wasn’t provided by a regular cross country runner, but rather by someone who was just hoping to help out while conditioning for her upcoming season.
Sophomore Bente General, who normally runs the 800-meter race for the USF track and field team, finished in 13th place at the Conference USA Championships to help the Bulls secure the second spot behind Marquette.
“There was no plan for her running cross country,” USF coach Greg Thiel said. “Usually, the long and middle distance runners in track run one cross country race during the year. It’s a good competitive gauge, and it’s a chance for them to experience some competition.”
Not only did General face some competition, but also surpassed a good portion of it. Her finish in the conference race even surpassed some of USF’s regular cross country runners.
“I was kind of surprised with how good I did,” General said. However, Thiel wasn’t as surprised with the finish General produced.
“Honestly, nothing Bente does surprises me,” Thiel said. “She’s just an incredibly talented athlete. Pleased and thrilled, yeah, but I wouldn’t say surprised.” General said Thiel offered her a chance to run cross country, so she accepted the invitation.
“They asked me to run, and I said yeah,” General said. “I just wanted to try it because I had never run a cross country race before.”
General first ran with the cross country team in Gainesville, finishing 15th in the Florida Intercollegiate, a meet the Bulls won. She followed that performance with another 15th place finish at the Auburn Invitational Oct. 19.
But Thiel saw the acceptance of his invitation to be more than just curiosity.
“I just admire her because she’s (running) for the team,” Thiel said. “It’s nice to see that team spirit.”
General plans to run in the South Regional meet with the Bulls this Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn. A top-two finish there could have General and the women running in the NCAA Championships Nov. 25.
Although General said she wants to continue to improve, she wouldn’t be disappointed if her finish this weekend wasn’t as good as in the conference race. Thiel also said he wouldn’t be disappointed.
“We don’t have very high expectations for her, so we’re happy with whatever she can give us,” Thiel said. “It’s just a nice insurance to have six or seven girls running as opposed to five.”
As for General’s future in cross country during her time at USF, she’s still a little undecided.
“I would like to run it again,” she said. “But I think a couple times a year is enough. I like track better because cross country is really long.”
Thiel said if General wanted to continue to run he would probably give her the opportunity.
“If she wanted to continue (in the future), I would let her run a couple meets here and there,” he said. “The main thing is she has to remain healthy.”
The main thing for her is that cross country will help her improve in her regular sport.
“Cross country helps me out with my endurance,” she said. “But, it’s really not my sport.”
Contact Adam Adkins at email@example.com