HPU’s Smith Wins Big South Cross Country Championship

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Senior Jacob Smith became High Point University’s first-ever individual champ as the men’s cross country team placed second at the Big South Championship on Saturday in Rock Hill, S.C. Junior Patrick Crawford placed fifth.

“Jacob had a great individual win today. His training was great, he really ran well and got it done,” said HPU head coach Mike Esposito. “Liberty came through and won the team title. Obviously that was our goal today but I thought several of our guys really put it out there. Patrick ran OK, Jeff LaCoste had a very good race, Paddy Grandinali ran fourth for us again as a true freshman, and Chris Colo really came through today.”

Smith won the 8,000-meter race with a time of 24:35.79, becoming High Point’s first individual champion in men’s cross country. He was in the top group throughout the race, coming down the final stretch with three Liberty runners. Outkicking all three to the finish. The Flames’ David Ricksecker placed second (24:39.62), Caleb Edmonds took third (24:40.29) and N’Getich Kipchirchir took fourth (24:44.64).

Crawford also ran among the leaders throughout the race, placing fifth in 24:52.27, and HPU redshirt-freshman Jeff LaCoste placed eighth in 25:17.51. However, Liberty’s No. 4 and 5 runners placed seventh and 12th, respectively.

HPU freshman Paddy Grandinali took 16th in 25:40.78 and sophomore Chris Colo had a breakthrough race, placing 19th 26:00.40 as High Point’s No. 5 runner.

Sophomore Reece Ayers placed 20th for High Point, finishing in 26:03.34 and freshman Ben Robinson placed 24th in 26:12.91. Freshman Benji Szalai placed 34th in 26:33.35. Junior John Yankello placed 36th in 26:36.55 and freshman Cody Seymour placed 62nd.

Liberty won the meet with a score of 28 points followed by High Point (49), Campbell (92) and VMI (100). UNC Asheville placed fifth with 158 points followed by Coastal Carolina (178), Winthrop (185) and Radford (192). Longwood placed ninth with 214 points, Gardner-Webb was 10th (320), Charleston Southern 11th (347) and Presbyterian 12th (365).

High Point finished second at the Big South Championship for the sixth year in a row while Liberty won its eighth-straight title. The Panthers have put three runners on the All-Conference team in each of the past four seasons. HPU’s previous best individual finish was second on four occasions, including Smith last season.

The Panthers will next compete in the NCAA Southeast Regional on Nov. 9 in Charlotte, N.C. The race begins at 1:15 p.m.