Szalai Leads HPU Men’s Cross Country In Debut

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Freshman Benji Szalai placed seventh in his debut race to lead the High Point University men’s cross country team to a fifth-place finish in the Charlotte Invitational on Friday at McAlpine Park in Charlotte, N.C.

Szalai finished the 8,000-meter course in 24:34.89. Junior Patrick Crawford placed 12th in 24:50.13 and senior Jacob Smith took 32nd in 25:16.39.

“That was a good opener for Benji. He’s accustomed to 6K in cross country so that was a good adjustment to 8K,” said HPU head coach Mike Esposito. “Patrick’s best racing is still ahead of him. He has been logging high mileage. That was Jacob’s first real race since NCAA’s in track and we know he’s much better than what we saw today. It was a rust buster for him.

Freshman Paddy Grandinali was HPU’s fourth runner in the championship race, placing 50th overall in 25:40.72. Sophomore Chris Colo placed 79th in 26:08.95 and junior John Yankello placed 96th in 26:24.11.

“Paddy, Chris Colo and John Yankello were all solid today. It was a decent day but we’ve got to get better.”

Virginia Tech won the meet with 31 points followed by Wake Forest (80), Davidson (138) and Appalachian State (149). The Panthers took fifth with 154 points. High Point was the top Big South school in the meet as Campbell took 12th, Radford placed 16th, Coastal Carolina took 18th, Winthrop placed 26th and Gardner-Webb placed 29th. There were 35 teams in the race.

In the sub-varsity race, HPU redshirt-freshman Jeff LaCoste got the individual win in a time of 25:32.99. He had been injured recently and was making his 8K debut. Freshmen Cody Seymour and Ben Robinson ran among the leaders for most of the race, finishing seventh and ninth, respectively. Seymour finished in 25:56.98 while Robinson clocked a time of 26:04.94.

“That was a good win for Jeff,” said Esposito. “That was his first true cross country race in over a year. Cody and Ben both competed well and went to the front. Our freshmen are doing well, but it’s going to take some time to translate to their races.”

Also in the sub-varsity race, freshman Kevin Maguire took 13th in 26:17.76 and freshman Eddie Whitlock took 30th in 26:58.74. Freshmen Zach Hostetler and Kevin Kreider placed 37th and 43rd, respectively.

High Point’s top group heads to the Chile Pepper Festival hosted by the University of Arkansas to race among some of the nation’s best teams on Saturday, Oct. 13. Those who don’t compete in Arkansas will race at the Blue Ridge Open on Oct. 12.