The Eastern Mennonite cross country team got a sneak peek of ODAC competition this Saturday at the Hornet Harrier Invitational.
The meet took place in Winchester, Va., at Kernstown Battlefield, (or 301 Good Luck Avenue, as one runner put it) a course famous (or infamous) for its hills. This is where the ODAC Championships will be run on October 27.
The teams had several options for races this morning: there was a men's 8K and 6K option, as well as a women's 6K and 5K. The men's team split up, while the entire women's team competed in the 6K.
The first race with EMU runners was the men's 8K, bright and early. Eastern Mennonite had four runners braving the hills in this, the longest race of the day.
Jack Rice (Palmyra, Va./Fluvanna County) finished first for the Royals, completing his first collegiate 8K in 29th place with a time of 32:02.
Next through the finish chute was Charles Thornton (Hamilton, Va./Loudoun Valley), a few strides behind Rice in 30th place and 32:07.
This race was a freshman-heavy effort (Longenecker was EMU's only upperclassman) but the young team proved their mettle on the Kernstown hills.
The women ran next, testing their legs on the 6K course they will return to in just over a month.
Laurie Serrell (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) and Elizabeth Nisly (Bluffton, Ohio/Bluffton) came in first and second for the team, respectively, both snagging spots in the top 10. Serrell earned 9th place with a time of 24:40, while Nisly finished 10th with 24:41.
"Laurie and Elizabeth just continue to lead by example," commented Head Coach Bob Hepler. "They're very different runners. Laurie is a 800 sprinter type person and Elizabeth is your true distance runner and yet they're right next to each other the entire race and it's really fun to watch their different styles."
Abigail Shelly (Collinsville, Miss./West Lauderdale) used the final downhill to her advantage, coming in 15th place with a time of 25:29.
Next for EMU was Emma Hoover (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh), finishing strong with 23rd place and 26:22.
Allison Shelly (Collinsville, Miss./West Lauderdale) was EMU's fifth runner, earning 49th place and 29:37.
Rounding out EMU's pack was Kellie Serrell (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) in 58th place with a time of 30:47.
The women's team finished in 5th place out of 10 teams.
"The women were, I think, amazing," said Coach Hepler. "They're just getting better and better...I think it was very profitable for them to go and do the actual ODAC course today and practice their downhill running and really get their heads in the game. I'm super excited about how they do at Gettysburg in three weeks."
Last on the schedule for the EMU teams was the men's 6K. Three EMU Royals took part in this race, pushing each other through the course.
Isaac Alderfer (Broadway, Va./Broadway) came in first for the team, barrelling down the final hill to claim 12th place and a time of 20:10.
Justice Allen (Waynesboro, Va./Waynesboro) finished next, putting his long stride to work as he passed runners all the way to the finish. He earned 19th place and 20:46.
Closing out EMU's racing for the day was Derrick Chirinos (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg), who snagged 35th place and a time of 21:35.
"I think that Justice and Derrick are slowly gaining confidence and they just have no idea how good they can be," said Coach Hepler. "They can be really really good. And Isaac is one of the most talented runners in the conference, and I think we're going to see that more and more each race."
Coach Hepler is optimistic about the rest of the season.
"So then all of our other freshmen women and men just improve with experience," he said cheerily. "It was a very fun, positive day."
The Royals go from one battlefield to another with their next race at the Gettysburg Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 13.
-- by Elizabeth Nisly, Sports Information Writing Intern