The Oglethorpe men's cross country team finished in fourth place at the SAA Cross Country Championships Saturday morning at Nash Farm Battlefield in Hampton, Georgia, posting their highest-ever finish at an SAA Championship in the process. The Stormy Petrels came home with a score of 91 points and an average time of 28 minutes, 23 seconds in the eight-kilometer race. In addition, the Petrels saw freshman Bill Lester earn the SAA Men's Cross Country Newcomer of the Year award and sophomore Mateo Villa take All-SAA Second Team honors, with Lester and freshman Jacob Hadden both earning All-SAA Honorable Mention.
Villa finished in ninth place, marking the highest-ever finish by a Petrel men's runner at an SAA meet. He finished in 27:39.1 to earn his spot in the top 10 by almost 20 seconds over the 11th-place finisher. Lester became the first member of the Petrels to ever win a postseason SAA award, finishing tops among freshmen and 14th overall, posting a mark of 28:05.9. Hadden finishing right behind in 15th, coming home in 28:08.3. The trio became the first three Petrel runners to ever earn All-SAA honors.
Sophomore Jonathan Vernon finished fourth among Petrels and 22nd overall, posting a time of 28:44.6. Meanwhile, freshman Reilly Jackson rounded out the scoring Petrels, finishing 33rd in 29:22.2. Elsewhere, sophomore Nick Evans finished in the top half of the field, coming in 40th with a time of 30:04.1. Sophomore Nick Berardi came in right behind him, and junior Rodrigo Meade, freshman Slater Guevara, sophomore Andrew Aycock, freshman Nick Wootton, freshman Lindsey Green, sophomore Jonathan Carden, sophomore Will Pursell and freshman Oz Faal all completed the race for the Petrels.
"I thought the men ran tough and our top guys did an amazing job of sticking it out there in the top part of the field," said Oglethorpe head coach Kirk Shellhouse. "Mateo had some trouble early on, but recovered very well and did an outstanding job of executing late. Jake and Bill finished as the top two freshmen in the conference, which is very exciting for the future of our program. I thought they did an amazing job of executing late, staying tough, knowing who they needed to beat, and keeping the pedal to the medal to the end. Jonathan Vernon also did a great job today. He laid it out on the line for us and really came through today. I'm very happy with this effort. We still made some mistakes, but we're going to learn from that as a group and continue to get better."
The Petrels will be back in action on Nov. 11, when they travel to Newport News, Virginia, for the NCAA Division III South/Southeast Regional.