The Baker Orange

Cross country sweeps Maple Leaf Invite

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

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The men’s and women’s cross country teams swept the Maple Leaf Invitational Saturday morning at the Baldwin City Golf Course.

“We asked the kids at our pre-meeting that they go out and run with their heart,” coach Tim Byers said. “You could tell every one of them put their hearts in front.”

Sophomore Jillian Benson led the way for the women, not only claiming first place overall, but also snagging her first collegiate first-place finish. Benson captured the title in a time of 15:28 with encouragement from Byers, who was telling her “this is yours” before her final sprint.

Freshman Sarah Hollis and sophomore Rachael Ash followed Benson closely the whole race and finished second and third, respectively. Hollis finished with a time of 15:38 with Ash only five seconds behind.

“Rachel ran a really smart race,” Byers said. “She kind of hung back and let the people get their surge on in front of her, and then she picked people off after that.”

Byers says he couldn’t be more proud of the way Benson, Hollis and Ash ran.

“They were a very solid top three,” Byers said. “A very smart race by those three ladies.”

The women placed four more runners in the top 20 with their deep group of freshmen. Autumn Sifuentes ended up in 11th, Brenda McCollum in 12th, Ziara McDowell in 18th and Caitlin Apollo in 20th. Sophomore Amanda Moody finished the day in 29th place.

The men’s team also took first place overall behind freshman Eddie Esquivel, who finished second individually with a time of 16:03.

“Eddie’s great,” Byers said. “He’s been working real hard at practice and he’s been doing everything he needs to do to be a better runner at the collegiate level.”

The men placed five more in the top 10 with junior Gunnar Hays in fourth, sophomore Corey Matteson in sixth, followed by freshman Joe Linder in seventh, sophomore Jamie Stuery in eighth, and Andrew Dare in ninth place. All six finished the 5-kilometer race with times under 17 minutes.

“That whole group, they’ve been running together every day and pushing each other every day,” Byers said.

Senior Vincent Tadokoro ended up just one spot outside the top 10. Sophomore Andrew Emanuels, freshman Josh Bostick, sophomore Carter Breithaupt and freshman Johnny Fulkerson all finished inside the top 50.

The men and women will compete next on Sept. 20 in Joplin, Missouri, at the Southern Stampede.

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