HPU Men’s Cross Country Takes Ninth In Chile Pepper Festival

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The High Point University men’s cross country team placed ninth out of 34 teams at the Chile Pepper Festival on Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark. Senior Jacob Smith was the Panthers’ top finisher in 34th place.

“This wasn’t the result we were looking for today, I think we have the talent to be top three in a race like this,” said HPU head coach Mike Esposito. “We’ve been inconsistent with good days and bad days in training and it shows in our races.

“We have a really talented and fit group, our guys just need to realize that and show it in a race. We’re going to train hard and stay positive over fall break and get ready for the Big South Championship in two weeks.”

Smith placed 34th with a time of 31:49.4 on the 10,000-meter course. Redshirt-freshman Jeff LaCoste was close behind in 36th with a time of 31:52.4. Junior Patrick Crawford placed 70th in 32:29.3.

High Point had two freshmen finish their first 10K cross country races – Paddy Grandinali placed 90th in 32:49.4 and Cody Seymour took 105th in 32:59.2. Sophomore Reece Ayers placed 143rd in 33:30.4. Freshman Benji Szalai did not finish the race.

“Jeff LaCoste and the two freshmen, Paddy and Cody, all ran well today,” said Esposito. “We’ll pull everyone together for the conference championship.”

No. 2 Oklahoma State won the meet with 20 points, placing eight runners in the top 12. Texas Tech was runner-up and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi placed third.

The Big South Championship is set for Oct. 29 at Winthrop in Rock Hill, S.C. In the most recent Div. I Southeast rankings released on Oct. 1, High Point was ranked 13th in the region, one spot ahead of Liberty. They were the only two Big South teams in the rankings. High Point has finished second to Liberty in the last five Big South Championships.