Eastern Mennonite University women's and men's cross country teams raced at the ODAC Championships this Saturday, hosted by Shenandoah University at Kernstown Battlefield.
The Royals came away with two All-ODAC finishes in Elizabeth Nisly (Bluffton, Ohio/Bluffton) and Laurie Serrell (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg), as well as solid team placements. The men exceeded their preseason poll spot by two places, coming in sixth as a team, while the women claimed fifth.
The women ran their 6K race first on the chill autumn morning, churning up mud and charging up hills.
Nisly crossed the line first for EMU, claiming 12th place with a season best time of 23:46.
Laurie Serrell blazed through the finish next, earning 13th with a time of 23:59. Both earned their first-ever All-ODAC Second Team honors.
Next came Abigail Shelly (Collinsville, Miss./West Lauderdale), barrelling down the hill to snag 27th place and a time of 24:53.
Emma Hoover (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh) powered through at 26:27. She got 44th place.
Then came Allison Shelly (Collinsville, Miss./West Lauderdale) with 27:07 and 51st place.
Rounding out EMU's pack was Kellie Serrell (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) with a big PR (personal record) of 29:54 and 68th place.
"I think probably four or five out of the six probably had the race of their lives on a very difficult course," said Head Coach Bob Hepler. "They had really good times, and we could just see the improvement versus what we did four or five weeks ago when we were there the first time."
Coach Hepler is glad the women were able to place so well after losing vital members of last year's squad.
"Going into the year, losing some key members of the team, I was thinking honestly probably seventh or eighth place. So for the women to get fifth and almost fourth in a very good conference is amazing."
The women totaled 117 points for fifth behind host Shenandoah at 101. Washington and Lee scored 34 points to edge Lynchburg by five.
Coach Hepler was proud of his runners' individual finishes as well.
"Getting Laurie and Elizabeth all-conference honors just warmed my heart, they just ran so well against national caliber women and I think everybody, all the women ran well, but especially those two."
He is already looking towards the next race.
"I'm thinking that at regionals they need to look at the five girls from ODACs that were in front of them and it's very reasonable for them to beat them and improve their times pretty substantially in the next two weeks, so I'm optimistic."
The men ran next. Their race was an 8K, on a course perched precariously on the side of a monstrous hill.
Isaac Alderfer (Broadway, Va./Broadway) finished first for the men with a strong final leg. He earned 19th place with a PR of 27:39.
Next over the line was Justice Allen (Waynesboro, Va./Waynesboro) with a time of 28:49 and 34th place.
Isaac Andreas (Bluffton, Ohio/Bluffton) also came on strong and was seconds behind Allen in only his second collegiate cross country race. He took 35th place with a hefty PR of 28:54.
Derrick Chirinos (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) finished next, earning 47th with a time of 29:47. As a senior, you could say he's pretty well "over the hill" with his last ODACs under the belt.
EMU's fifth runner was Charles Thornton (Hamilton, Va./Loudoun Valley) who took 67th place. His time was 31:29.
Collin Longenecker (Harrisonburg, Va./Turner Ashby) was not far behind, claiming 71st at 31:47.
Ivan Harris (Spotsylvania, Va./Spotsylvania) finished out the day with 95th place and a time of 39:04.
Coach Hepler was impressed with his men's team.
"The guys going into the year, there was no reason not to believe they weren't a last place team," he said, "and they got sixth but they were very competitive. I think out of the nine guys who finished today there were probably seven people who had the best race of their lives."
The had 176 points for sixth of 11 teams, behind Virginia Wesleyan at 153.
Coach Hepler said it was exciting to see great races from a young and sometimes injured squad.
"Some of the highlights included Isaac Andreas who's been injured all year dropping three minutes in only his second race and moving up to number three on our depth chart for the team," Coach Hepler said, "and Isaac Alderfer racing and PRing despite being very ill. Gosh, Ivan Harris finishing five miles for the first time and Jake Myers almost making the Regionals team after being injured all year. It really just goes on and on."
"They had a phenomenal day," Coach Hepler concluded.
EMU cross country races again in two weeks at the South/Southeast Regional Championships, hosted by Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga.
--- by Elizabeth Nisly, EMU Sports Information Writing Intern