NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Hosting the OVC Cross Country Championships for the first time in program history, the Belmont University cross country team made the most of it as the men finished second overall while the women third in what was a very successful event for the Bruins at Percy Warner Park on Saturday, Oct 29. Belmont featured two medal winners as Hannah Denton (Burns, Tenn.) and Matt Edwards (Glamorgan, Wales) each finished within the top 14 of their respective races and were subsequently named Second Team All-OVC.
"In both races today I thought our teams stuck to our game plan very well and stayed consistent throughout the entire run. I'm very proud of the effort from both the men and women and am especially happy that we were able to do it in front of our home fans," remarked Director of Cross Country Jeff Langdon.
Eastern Kentucky claimed the conference crown in both the men's and women's race and it was UT Martin's Ann Asipan winning the women's race while Gilbert Boit notched a first place in the men's competition.
The Bruin men with a score of 92, finished runner up to Eastern Kentucky who finished with 37 points while the Bruin women registered 107 points, trailing second place SEMO (94) and winner EKU (29).
For the Belmont men, its second place finish in the event is the program's best since 2013.
The men's team executed its pack-style running to perfection as Belmont's top five performers all finished within the overall top 25. Edwards, setting the pace for the third team this season, led Belmont with a 12th overall finish and a 25:31.6. Luke Evans (Columbus, Ohio) continued his strong season, finishing 16th while teammate Anthony Didion (LaPorte, Ind.) registered an 18th place finish. Rounding out the top five for Belmont were junior Mat t Blivin (Durham, N.C.) who came in 22nd and Jackson Gryzmkowski (Commerce, Mich.) who produced a 24th place overall finish. Kaden Eaton (Columbus, Ind.) and Alex Mimlitz (Elmhurst, Ill.) finished 40th and 45th, respectively, as they garnered top 50 finishes.
"Matt Edwards ran a smart race. He respected the difficulty of the course today. While other runners faded the second half of the race, Matt and the entire Belmont team got stronger and caught a lot of talented runners," added Langdon. "Matt led by example today and propelled the team to a second place finish."
For the third-straight race, the veteran Denton led the Bruin women as she placed 11th overall in a pool of 89 runners with a time of 17:40.3. The Belmont women produced four top 25 finishers. Jessica King (Fishers, Ind.), racing for just the third time this season, joined Denton in the top 20 with a 17:59.7 and a 19th place overall mark. Finishing 21st and 22nd respectively were Kiera Weems (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Kortney Schardt (Lindenhurst, Ill.) while Sierra Lax (Columbus, Ind.) placed 38th to round out Belmont's top five. Molly Foster (Johnson City, Tenn.) placed 45th and Mallory Young (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) 60th to conclude the Bruin entries.
"Today was the best race our women have put together all season. I am so proud of every single one of them and the way they came together during the race. Having four women in the top 25 is really exciting as we move toward Regionals. We saw them execute the pack mentality that we practice regularly in workouts," remarked Belmont Assistant Coach Ashley Casavant. "Hannah Denton's 11th place performance represents her four years of dedication. Her previous best finish at OVCs was 32nd her freshman year so moving up 20 places to finish All-Conference is a huge accomplishment."
The Bruin runners return to action Nov. 11 when they travel to the NCAA South Regionals in Tallahassee, Fla.