HPU Men’s Cross Country Matches Best Ever Finish At NCAA Regional

• The seventh-place showing matched HPU’s best ever finish at the NCAA Regional, set originally in 2004
• Junior Jeff LaCoste finished 19th to lead the Panthers and earn all-region honors for the second-straight season
• HPU placed three runners in the top-50, including senior Chris Colo who climbed 69 spots from his 2013 showing to finish 29th (31:01.40)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The 2014 Big South Champion High Point University men’s cross country team posted its best NCAA Regional finish in a decade Friday afternoon at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park.

The Panthers placed seventh in Louisville, matching the program’s best-ever finish originally set in 2004. HPU (218 points) finished in front of host Louisville (8th, 224), Kentucky (9th, 261) and Wake Forest (10th, 354) among others.

“We ran very solid. I thought our kids engaged really well,” head coach Mike Esposito said. “James [Quattlebaum] was very aggressive and Paddy [Grandinali] and Benji [Szalai] really picked it up and helped us at the four and five spots. Our goal heading into the season was top-7 at the regional and we accomplished that goal.”

No. 28 Virginia won the race with a total of 75 points. No. 16 Furman placed second (79), while No. 22 North Carolina was third (87).

HPU redshirt-junior Jeff LaCoste earned USTFCCCA All-Region honors for the second-straight season, finishing 19th to lead the Panthers in a time of 30:42.40. The 2014 Big South Runner of the Year will now wait until Saturday afternoon to find out if he will qualify for the NCAA Championship as an individual, based on results from the other NCAA regions.

Senior Chris Colo put the finishing touches on a breakout senior season by placing 29th out of 231 runners in a personal-best 10K time of 31:01.40. The finish marked a 69-place improvement over his 98th-place finish in 2013.

“Chris ran awesome,” Esposito said. “He has completed an amazing jump this season and just missed out on all-region.”

Freshman James Quattlebaum also ran well in his first NCAA Regional, finishing 44th in 31:16.40.

Junior Paddy Grandinali improved 31 spots from his 2013 NCAA Regional showing to finish 52nd in a time of 31:25.40, while fellow junior Benji Szalai placed 77th in 31:52.50.

2014 Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year Reece Ayers wrapped up his HPU cross country career with an 85th-place showing (31:59.70), which marked his best NCAA Regional finish in four seasons.

Freshman Ryan Udvadia rounded out the HPU top-7 with a 176th-place finish in 33:53.70.

“This was a nice stepping stone for our program,” Esposito said. “The goal will be to make the Big Dance next year. There’s a lot of work we need to do between now and then. We have to get better on the track this winter. That’s the next step to give us more confidence against some of the top teams heading into next fall.”