HPU Women’s Cross Country Places Fourth at Blue Ridge Open

• The Panthers earned three top-30 finishes on the day
• Senior Leah Anne Wirfel led HPU with a time of 19:26.22 to place 21st
• HPU returns to action at the Big South Championship on Nov. 1 in Boiling Springs, N.C.

BOONE, N.C. – The High Point University women’s cross country team placed fourth at the Blue Ridge Open Friday afternoon on the campus of Appalachian State University.

The Panthers notched three top-30 finishes, led by senior Leah Anne Wirfel who placed 21st in a time of 19:26.22. Sophomore Natalia Ocasio was 27th (19:40.67) while freshman Kelly Hayes was close behind in 28th (19:44.99).

Host Appalachian State won the event with 38 points, while Wake Forest (44) and Coastal Carolina (88) rounded out the top-3. The Panthers notched 114 points to finish fourth, while East Carolina (123) and Northern Kentucky (173) finished in fifth and sixth, respectively. Lenoir-Rhyne (7th, 190), Gardner-Webb (8th, 195), Winston-Salem State (9th, 284) and Lees-McRae (10th, 291) rounded out the field.

“I don’t think we raced particularly well as a team but I think some individuals had really good days,” head coach Jenna Wrieden said. “Natalia had a great day and Leah Anne’s been very consistent for us.”

Senior Krista Willard finished 34th for HPU (19:59.17) while junior Erika Peoples notched a 44th-place finish (20:21.75). Junior Julia Zautcke was 47th in 20:30.39 and junior Katie Farina placed 52nd in 20:41.55.

Senior Sarah Dorrell (55th, 20:48.69), junior Sarah Bode (60th, 21:04.69), freshman Lona Williams (64th, 21:17.07) and senior Lauren Blackwell (71st, 21:34.75) rounded out the group for the Panthers.

“I think what’s always worked well for us is utilizing that strong pack running,” head coach Jenna Wrieden said. “Today, we had almost our entire pack where we wanted it but not quite. There’s a few things that are evident that we need to do to beat Coastal in two weeks, and we didn’t do those today.”

The Panthers return to action at the Big South Championship November 1 in Boiling Springs, N.C. The race begins at 10:30 a.m.