Hayes Wins Elon Invite Title To Lead HPU Women’s Cross Country

• Sophomore Kelly Hayes won her first individual collegiate title, capturing the Elon Invitational crown in 14:39
• Junior Natalia Ocasio also posted a top-10 finish, placing eighth in a time of 15:15
• High Point placed third at the meet behind regionally-ranked foes Wake Forest (No. 5) and Elon (No. 15)

HIGH POINT, N.C. – Sophomore Kelly Hayes captured the first event title of her career Friday while leading the High Point University women’s cross country team to a third-place finish at the Elon Invitational.

In a breakout performance that’s surely a sign of things to come, Hayes won the Elon Invite crown in a time of 14:39, nine seconds faster than the next closest competitor.

“Congratulations to Kelly on winning her first collegiate meet,” head coach Jenna Wrieden said. “It’s something to be proud of, but more importantly, she executed her game plan perfectly. She’s making progress one day at a time and continuing to improve.”

Hayes’ finish helped HPU finish third in the 4K race amongst a strong field which included two regionally-ranked teams – Wake Forest (No. 5) and Elon (No. 15).

The Demon Deacons won the team title with a total of 33 points while the host Phoenix placed second with 41 points. High Point totaled 50 points, while UNCG rounded out the group with 114 points to finish fourth.

“Kelly’s finish sums up what we wanted to accomplish today,” Wrieden said. “We wanted to use today to see where we were as a group and where we needed to progress. We accomplished that objective. Our 1-to-5 spread was a bit too far apart for my liking – it needs to be closer to 30 seconds heading into championship season. But overall, we have a really good idea of how we want to move forward heading into Furman next weekend. We’re excited to get back to work this week.”

Junior Natalia Ocasio – a 2014 Big South all-conference selection – was HPU’s No. 2 runner and finished eighth for the Panthers in a time of 15:15.

Freshman Courtney Kerr put together a strong HPU debut by finishing 13th (15:46) while senior Julia Zautcke was right behind in 14th (15:50). Senior Sarah Bode ran well for HPU while finishing 15th in 16:06. It marked her best overall finish by place in her career.

“I’m proud of Sarah Bode for stepping up and finishing in our fifth position today,” Wrieden said. “Courtney Kerr was solid in her debut and Natalia also ran well.”

Senior Erika Peoples finished 18th for the Panthers in 16:17 while fellow senior Kasey Spence was just milliseconds behind in 19th (16:17) to round out the HPU contingent.

High Point is back in action next Saturday (Sept. 12) when the Panthers head to the Furman Invitational. The race is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.