The USF cross country team went into the Notre Dame Invitational hoping to answer some questions. The team left having created some.
The meet was host to more than 70 men and women’s teams, including 19 teams ranked in the nation’s top 30. Host Notre Dame took first in both the men and women’s standings.
The women were led by Christa Benton, whose time of 17:52 placed her 10th, and Bente General, who finished 12th with a time of 17:53.
The women placed one other runner in the top 100 with Jessica Hellender, whose 18:18 put her in 38th. However, the team finished just 12th in the 20-team field when freshmen Sarah Hall (19:40) and Maggie Potter (21:00) finished 121st and 151st, respectively.
The performance of the untested freshmen was a question entering the meet, and Friday provided no solution for USF coach Greg Thiel.
“Sara’s time got better, but the (freshmen) need to step up and get towards the front of the pack,” Thiel said. “Our top three finishers ran well, but our two freshmen need to be a little more competitive.”
Thiel said he thinks the improvement will come with experience.
“I think we need a couple more of these big meets,” Thiel said. “The best way to find out how good we can be is to keep on trying. We will be better because of this meet, though, heading towards the Conference USA Championships and the NCAA Regional.”
The men’s team entered with different expectations. With two sophomores and two freshmen, the team was among the youngest at the meet. While the women were trying to establish themselves among the nation’s elite, the men were trying to gauge how close they are to competing with the country’s best.
Derek Lincoln led the team with a time of 25:33 to finish 44th. Adam Cumbley, the team’s lone senior, finished 74th at 25:49. Derek Lincoln (26:46) finished 136th, Chris Cox (27:22) finished 160th and Andrew Charles (29:27) finished 187th for the Bulls, who took 22nd out of 23 teams.
“We were a little disappointed with the way our men competed,” Thiel said. “We were hoping that they would have run a better race, but it didn’t happen. We have set high expectations for our men’s team and we expect them to compete at a high level.”
However, Thiel said that he thinks the meet will still have a positive effect on the team.
“I think (competing in such a high-profile meet so early in their careers) will be very positive for the team,” Thiel said. “They know what they have to do now to improve and what it is they will have to compete with.”
The team will have next weekend off as the junior varsity women’s team competes in the Disney XC Classic in Orlando.
The varsity team’s next meet will come on Oct. 18 when they travel to University Park, Penn. for the Penn State National.