The Panthers finished sixth out of 35 teams in a competive field that featured four regionally-ranked teams
• Sophomore Kelly Hayes led HPU, finishing 12th out of 320 runners in a collegiate best 6k time of 21:53.96
• Junior Natalia Ocasio also set a 6k collegiate best (22:16.54) while earning a top-25 finish
GREENVILLE, S.C. – The High Point University women’s cross country team finished sixth in a strong field Saturday at the Furman Classic.
The Panthers placed sixth out of 35 total teams as well as sixth amongst the 13 Division I competitors.
Auburn – ranked seventh in the South region – won the event with 30 points, followed by South No. 8 Georgia with 86 points. Host Furman finished third (89), followed by Clemson (91) and Wake Forest. Both Furman (No. 5) and Wake Forest (No. 6) are ranked in the Southeast region.
High Point placed sixth with 154 points, followed by Western Carolina (231), Tennessee Tech (255) and Mercer (282) to round out the top-10.
“Today’s effort was a good step forward for our program,” head coach Jenna Wrieden said. “To place sixth in a large, competitive field was excellent. We’re on the brink of doing something special, but being amongst those top-5 teams is where we want to be. There was a gap in points between us and that top-5 and we need to move as a program to close that gap. This group can do it – they are buying into the process and each other. The time is now with the quality seniors we have on our team.”
Sophomore Kelly Hayes paced the Panthers for the second time in as many races in 2015. The Pearl Harbor, N.Y., finished 12th out of 320 total competitors in a collegiate best 6k time of 21:53.96. The time was more than 70 seconds faster than her previous best mark.
“Kelly did a wonderful job of going out with the top pack of runners and handling the controlled pace of the race,” Wrieden said. “She belonged up front and did a great job of staying level headed. She’s getting better every day.”
Junior Natalia Ocasio once again finished as HPU’s No. 2 runner in a collegiate best time of 22:16.54. The mark placed her 22nd among Div. I competitors and bested her previous top 6k time by more than 20 seconds.
Senior Katie Farina returned from a nagging leg injury to finish 31st. Farina finished the race in 22:33.82 to place third overall for HPU.
In her first collegiate 6k, freshman Courtney Kerr finished 51st overall in a time of 23:11.33 while junior Cozette Collin was 54th in 23:24.68. Senior Erika Peoples was close behind in 23:29.29 to place 56th.
“Katie and Natalia did exactly what they needed to do today,” Wrieden said. “Our top-3 took a nice step forward today. We need to continue to work on closing the distance between our third and fourth runners. Cozette is someone who will get better from this point forward. To see her and Courtney and Erika have improved performances today is great to witness. I’m very pleased with our effort.”
Senior Julia Zautcke finished 67th in 23:51.01 and fellow senior Lindsey Siska placed 75th in a time of 24:08.09.
Rounding out the HPU contingent, senior Sarah Bode finished 100th in 25:37.03 while freshman Janelle Rothacker was 112th in 27:30.64.
High Point returns to action in two weeks at the premier Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational in Earlysville, Va. The race is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26 at 10 a.m.