HPU Men’s Cross Country Takes Gardner-Webb Invite Title

• The event victory was HPU’s first ever in a Big South preview event
• HPU garnered six of the top-10 spots at the meet
• Juniors Jeff LaCoste (2nd) and Paddy Grandinali (4th) earned top-5 finishes for HPU

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Behind six top-10 finishes, the High Point University men’s cross country team opened the 2014 campaign with a first-place finish at the Gardner-Webb Invitational Saturday.

The Panthers led the event with a meet-low score of 28 and grabbed three of the top-6 spots at the Big South preview event. Liberty placed second with 49 points and Campbell rounded out the top-3 with a score of 65. Radford (122) and Coastal Carolina (132) grabbed the fourth and fifth positions, while UNC-Asheville (6th, 153), Winthrop (7th, 184), Gardner-Webb (8th, 247) and Presbyterian College (9th, 264) rounded out the scoring in Boiling Springs.

“Our goal was to win the meet and I’m excited that we did,” head coach Mike Esposito said. “We wanted to run collectively and keep the space between one-through-five down, which we accomplished. I’m very pleased with the approach of our kids.”

The meet victory was HPU’s first-ever at a Big South preview event. It’s the first event title for the Panthers since capturing the Demon Deacon Quad Meet on Aug. 31, 2012.

Redshirt junior and 2013 USTFCCCA All-Region selection Jeff LaCoste picked up where he left off last season, leading the Panthers with a second-place finish at GWU. The Amherst, N.H., native crossed the finish line in 25:44.78.

He was joined in the top-5 by 2013 Big South All-Conference selection Paddy Grandinali, who placed fourth in a time of 25:48.94. It marked Grandinali’s top finish (by position) in an HPU uniform.

High Point’s duo of freshman earned a pair of strong debuts Saturday, as James Quattlebaum placed sixth in 25:51.62, while Ryan Udvadia was ninth in 26:07.33. Senior Chris Colo also earned a top-10 finish, placing seventh with a mark of 26:04.26. Senior Reece Ayers was the sixth top-10 finisher for HPU, finishing 10th with a time of 26:16.21.

“Jeff and Paddy sacrificed a little bit for the team today, as we had a nice group of four there with Reece and Ryan not that far off for the bulk of the race,” Esposito said. “I’m very pleased with our two freshmen. I thought they stepped up in their first 8k and certainly did well. Chris Colo is in a whole different place and it’s exciting to watch him start to blossom as a senior.”

Sophomores Mason Lenox and Chernet Sisay also grabbed a pair of top-20 finishes overall. Lenox placed 14th in a time of 26:52.65 while Sisay was 20th in 27:21.21.

Juniors Kevin Maguire (22nd, 27:29.89) and Cody Seymour (31st, 28:23.55) finished in the top-half of the event to wrap up the HPU contingent.

HPU returns to action at a pair of meets on Friday, Sept. 26. The Panthers will send their top-7 runners to the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational in Earlysville, Va., while a pod of student-athletes also will race at the UNCG Spartan Invitational in Kernersville, N.C.

“This is a great start to the season and I’m looking forward to a big time test in two weeks,” Esposito said. “We’re excited about where we’re at as a program.”