The Oglethorpe cross country teams had their most successful day ever at the SAA Cross Country Championships Saturday. The Stormy Petrels took to the Choctaw Trails course in Clinton, Mississippi, and saw the men finish sixth and the women seventh. Those finishes are the highest each program has had at the SAA Championships. It's the best finish at a conference championships for the women since the 2000 SCAC Championships, while it's the best since the 1997 SCAC Championships for the men.
The men saw nine runners in all take to the Mississippi course, and they combined for a total time of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 29.1 seconds. That put them just a minute behind fifth-place Centre and a full 12 minutes in front of seventh-place Hendrix. Freshman Omari Miller led Oglethorpe on the day, garnering a 20th place finish at 27 minutes, 45.4 seconds. He became the first member of the Oglethorpe men's cross country team to finish in the top 20 at an SAA Championship meet.
Following closely behind him was freshman Nick Evans, who posted a 31st-place time of 28:32.5 on the 8-kilometer course. Freshman Jonathan Vernon came in right behind that at 28:40.5, putting himself in 33rd place. Fellow freshman Mateo Villa came in just behind that in 34th, posting a time of 28:40.6. Freshman Andrew Aycock rounded out the Oglethorpe runners in the top half of the field, posting a 37th-place finish at 28:50.1.
"The men did a great job battling today from beginning to the end," said Oglethorpe head coach Kirk Shellhouse. "Even though the result was not what we wanted, we had a great showing from the guys. Omari was incredibly tough throughout the race and made some wonderful moves late to lead our team to it's success. We also had great finishes by Vernon, Villa and Aycock when it came down to the home stretch."
On the women's side, five runners took to the 6-kilometer course and combined for a total time of 2:16:21.5. Freshman Glenda Tutt became the first member of the women's program to ever finish in the top 30 at an SAA Championship meet. She finished 26th on the morning with a time of 25:08.7, putting her within about 30 seconds of the top 20.
Fellow freshman Hava Stenn also earned a spot in the top half of the women's field. She posted a 26:02.6 on the day, putting her in 37th place. Senior Sionna Hopkins and sophomores Kara Jones and May Mizell also posted official times for Oglethorpe.
"I was very proud of our women today," said Shellhouse. "I thought they competed very well and ran tough against some great competition. Glenda did an amazing job staying focused during the race and executed well late in the race."
The Petrels will now get set for the NCAA South/Southeast Regional in Mount Berry, Georgia. They'll compete in that event on Saturday, Nov. 12, giving them two weeks to rest and recuperate from the SAA Championships.