BUENA VISTA, Va. – Senior Patrick Crawford (Kernersville, N.C.) won the Big South Cross Country Championship, leading the HIgh Point University men’s cross country team to a runner-up finish on Saturday at Vista Links Golf Course in Buena Vista, Va. Redshirt-sophomore Jeff LaCoste (Amherst, N.H.) placed second, giving HPU a 1-2 finish.
It’s the second year in a row that High Point had the Big South individual champion. HPU sophomore Paddy Grandinali placed 12th to earn All-Conference honors along with Crawford and LaCoste. The Panthers placed second with 48 points, just off nine-time defending champ Liberty’s 40.
“Patrick and Jeff both had great performances out here today,” said HPU head coach Mike Esposito. “We wanted them to break up Liberty’s top two guys and they more than did that. Everyone came out and executed through 7K, we just couldn’t quite finish. It’s hurts to be so close to the win but this team came out and gave it all today. There wasn’t much more we could have done.”
Crawford and LaCoste went out early with Liberty’s Caleb Edmonds and Josh MacDonald before Crawford pulled away.
“I got a little lead early on a downhill and I wanted to keep pushing the downhills,” said Crawford. “I didn’t really have a race plan. I just got a lead early – it might have been too early – and kept running a little bit faster than everyone else.”
Crawford stretched his lead throughout the race and LaCoste was able to separate from the Liberty contenders as well. Crawford finished in 25:32.28 to LaCoste’s 25:52.84. Liberty’s Jeremie Bourget ended up third in 26:02.35 followed by the Flames’ MacDonald in 26:13.63.
For the Panthers, Grandinali placed 12th in 26:55.42 and junior Reece Ayers placed 14th in 27:06.53. Junior Chris Colo was HPU’s fifth finisher in 27:17.36. Sophomore Benji Szalai placed 22nd in 27:22.47 and sophomore Kevin Maguire placed 27th in 27:38.62.
It was the seventh season in a row that High Point was runner-up at the Big South Championship. Last season, High Point’s Jacob Smith won the Big South individual title. Smith will compete for the Panthers in indoor and outdoor track & field this season.
Behind Liberty and High Point, Campbell placed third with 87 points followed by host VMI (99) and Coastal Carolina (104). UNC Asheville placed sixth with 189 points followed by Longwood (195), Radford (196), Winthrop (237) and Gardner-Webb (329). Charleston Southern finished 11th with 351 points and Presbyterian placed 12th (368).
HPU’s season continues with the NCAA Southeast Region Championship hosted by Virginia on Nov. 15. The Panthers will look for a top-10 finish in that meet after placing 17th last season.