Cross country running with confidence

The USF men and women’s cross country teams left the Penn State National on Saturday with newfound confidence as they look toward the Conference USA championships in two weeks.

USF coach Greg Thiel said before the meet that in addition to looking for a strong performance at PSU, the runners would be testing in preparation for the conference championships, which will be hosted by USF on Nov. 1.

Assistant coach Rita Arndt said the team used the meet to push itself to new levels.

“(The runners found) they could do certain things without their bodies failing them,” Arndt said. “They gained confidence in their own abilities and can push themselves further without fear.

“By learning to run without fear, (the team can) focus and pay attention to, not their own bodies, but the competition. If one of our runners needs to surge to pass another competitor, it is no longer a question of can they do it — it is just a matter of doing it because now we know what we are capable of.”

The women’s team finished just eighth in the 19-team field, but placed two runners in the top 15. Christa Benton’s 21:09.42 placed her eighth to lead the team, while Bente General finished 13th with a time of 21:17.8.

Also finishing in the 225-runner field for the Bulls were Jessica Hellender (21:59.91) in 41st, Sara Hall (23:42.61) in 125th and Kristen Poulos (23:47.99) in 129th. Minoo Mostafavifar, making her debut with the varsity team after leading the junior varsity squad in the Disney XC Classic on Oct. 11, finished 195th with a time of 26:49.25.

The men’s team rebounded from a 22nd-place showing at the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 3 to finish 12th out of 20 teams. Sean Burris finished 21st for the Bulls at 26:35.86, and Adam Chumbley crossed the line at 27:15.19 to take 42nd. Derek Lincoln (27:47.46), Chris Cox (28:33.64) and Andrew Charles (30:25.63) took 63rd, 103rd and 153rd, respectively.

USF faced a combined six teams who ranked in the top 30, but could not best any of them. However, they will only face one ranked team at the C-USA championships: the No. 26 Marquette women’s team.

“(Going into the conference championships), we want to have the top five runners out there,” Arndt said. “And after Saturday our runners know they are capable of that and what it will take to accomplish it.”