This weekend the cross-country men’s and women’s teams took part in their first event of the season at the Fleet Feet Sports/Earl Jacoby Memorial Cross Country Invitational in Huntsville.
The UNA women’s team finished fourth out of 13 teams, and the men’s finished seventh out of 11.
“I saw some really good things out there today, so I’m really proud of both our teams,” said coach Scott Trimble. “We showed some great progress from last year.”
The women’s team finished ahead of UAH for the first time in 12 years.
“This is the first time we’ve beat them since I’ve been here,” Trimble said. “It was really a whole team effort, led by junior Olivia Brady.”
Brady finished 17th overall with a time of 19:40 in the 5K. Four other Lions made it into the top 30, all freshmen: Laura Bennett, Sabrina Hudgins, Cassi Still and Alexandra Pidcock.
Five of the top seven finishers for UNA were freshmen.
“Our freshmen did really well today — they stepped up,” Trimble said. “That was really important because our number one runner (Savannah Roland) sat out today due to injury.”
He said Roland will be able to run in the next event.
Trimble said the men’s team had four guys run faster times than their No. 1 guy last year.
“They’ve really worked hard in their training, so hats off to them and also to my assistants Heath White and Hannah Simmons for working hard,” Trimble said.
Leading the way for the men’s was Clay Oden who finished 31st with a time of 27:41 in the 8K.
“Last year I ran 29:10 and this year our fifth man was 28:16, so I give credit to the quality guys we brought to the program,” Oden said. “We also had three freshmen in our top five.”
The three freshmen finishing in the top five for UNA were Justin Watson, Braxton Linder and Tate Carden.
“I am excited about running with them,” Oden said. “When we brought them in we knew they would be good, but we weren’t expecting them to run their first 8K so well.
“It seemed almost like running it wasn’t anything new to them.”
Oden said the way the team ran in its first event brings optimism for the rest of the season.
“I’m expecting this season to be one of the best for UNA in a long time,” he said. “There is a lot of improvement room still, and that’s what this season is about.”
Trimble said he is eager for the rest of the season, and with all the freshmen doing so well on the men’s and women’s teams, he thinks the program is headed in the right directions.
“The future is definitely bright on this team,” he said. “Getting Roland back for the next event will be a huge boost for the women.”
The cross-country team’s next event is the Rhodes College Invitational Sept. 27 in Memphis.