Eastern Mennonite's cross country teams started their season with a bang at the Bridgewater XC Challenge on Friday. With top finishes on both the men's and the women's sides, EMU marked itself as a major threat in the ODAC.
Junior Elizabeth Nisly (Bluffton, Ohio/Bluffton) won the women's 4K race with a time of 16:43 and freshman Isaac Alderfer (Broadway, Va./Broadway) earned second place in the men's 5K race with a time of 16:40.
The women ran first on this hot, sticky evening. Nisly, Laurie Serrell (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) and Abigail Shelly (Collinsville, Miss./West Lauderdale) ran in a tight pack formation through the first mile, before spreading out through the second half of the race. Nisly moved into first heading into the last 1200 meters and maintained position to cross the line first.
Laurie Serrell was next for the Royals, cruising through the finish in third place with a time of 16:59. Then came Abigail Shelly (6th, 17:34), Emma Hoover (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh) (11th, 19:00), Allison Shelly (Collinsville, Miss./West Lauderdale) (25th, 20:41), and Kellie Serrell (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) (38th, 22:41). The team took second overall with 43 points, after Bridgewater College (26).
Head Coach Bob Hepler was surprised and excited by Nisly's performance.
"To see Elizabeth's progress in such a short amount of time was really uplifting," he said, "and I think the whole team was uplifted by her performance and that gives us a lot of hope for the rest of the year."
He forecasts great things for the rest of the team as well.
"Laurie Serrell is just going to get better and better and Abigail Shelly is going to get better and better, too," Hepler explained. "The women are going to be very competitive by the end of the year."
The men ran next beneath the blazing August sun. Skyler Lattuca of Virginia Wesleyan took an early lead, leaving EMU's Alderfer to jostle for second. By the last half mile he opened up a comfortable lead between himself and the third runner, cruising to a second place finish.
Next for EMU was sophomore Justice Allen (Waynesboro, Va./Waynesboro) with in 11th place and a time of 18:03. Allen was followed by Derrick Chirinos (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) (15th, 18:24), Charles Thornton (Hamilton, Va./Loudoun Valley) (17th, 18:45), Ivan Harris (Spotsylvania, Va./Spotsylvania) (48th, 24:21), and Alijah Johnson (Upper Marlboro, Md./Frederick Douglass) (43rd, 25:48). The men claimed third place overall, out of seven teams, totaling 87 points. Emory & Henry was a single point behind with 88.
Many of this year's freshmen men were unable to run at Bridgewater due to injuries.
"They're banged up," Coach Hepler said, "and hopefully them seeing how much their team needs them today will inspire them."
He was impressed by the men who were able to run, however.
"Isaac Alderfer is tough as nails," said Hepler. "We knew he was going to be a star in track; it's obvious now that he's going to be a star in cross country as well. Derrick Chirinos and Justice Allen…they have no idea how good they can get, and so they just need a little confidence. Coach Cam and I are going to work hard to give them that confidence."
"I didn't have any expectations going in," said associate coach Erick Camodeca, "but it was really exciting to see where we're at already and how much the team has progressed and the competitiveness of everyone. They're not out here just to have fun, winning is important to them. I was really happy just with the effort from everyone today."
Check out EMU cross country next Saturday when they race at the JMU Invitational in New Market, Va.
-- by Elizabeth Nisly, Sports Information Writing Intern