By Jason Perry, Arts and Features staff writer
Finishing off the season, UNC Asheville cross country runners travelled to Western Carolina University for one of their last meets of the season. The men raced a 5k, while the women raced a two-mile. Both races were run on the track.
The men brought all eight of their runners with some strong performances. Blanton Gillespie finished fourth overall, the highest placer on the team with a time of 15:49.3. Nathan Kirse and Patrick Osborne were right behind placing fifth and sixth, running 15:54.9 and 15:56.8.
“I was pretty happy with it because it was two seconds off of my 5k personal best,” Gillespie says. “I was happy to finish the season like that. From the start we took it out at a reasonable pace, not too fast. I just tried to stick with the leaders as best as I could. The first mile we went out kind of slow. We held the same pace for the second mile and that was when the leaders tried to make a move. I just wanted to keep myself in the race, so I stayed with their move but I just couldn’t quite hold on. I still finished strong, so I was happy with it.”
Adam Puett, men’s distance coach, said he thought this race would be a good confidence-booster to finish off the season.
“I feel like we had some good performances,” Puett says. “We had some guys from where we tested metabolically at the beginning of the year that made some improvements. We still have a lot to do in order to be the top team in the conference. I feel like we had some improvements. We had some guys go out there and run well. Blanton had one of his better races, Nathan had a good one, and Pat. Jacob had a big improvement, from last track season. Jacob is probably 30 or 40 seconds faster. A lot of work has been put in, but we are still going to work harder and harder and keep trusting the system.”
The men placed second overall, wrapping up their cross country season. The team plans to start training for indoor track.
On the women’s side, the Bulldogs brought eight runners to the meet. Marissa Banks placed the highest for the Bulldogs. She placed sixth with a time of 11:46.7. Following Banks, Maddie Lowe and Alyssa Lashway finished ninth and 10th running 11:56.2 and 12:01.2.
Banks says the team had only found out earlier that week that they were running this meet. She said they all felt pretty relaxed before the meet because there was not a lot of pressure. Banks was focused on running hard and having fun.
“I feel pretty good about it because it was my first time racing a two mile on the track,” Banks says. “The first lap was pretty fast, so I just tried to stay in the middle with my teammates. We worked together for the first few laps and we tried to pick it up for the last couple of laps.”
The women’s team placed second overall. The women’s next race will be regionals.