Hayes Wins Individual Title, HPU Women’s XC Places Second At USC Upstate

• Sophomore Kelly Hayes won her second race in four starts in 2015, crossing the finish line in 18:18.52
• The Panthers finished second out of 13 teams and placed four runners in the top-10
• Junior Natalia Ocasio finished second overall in a collegiate-best 5k time of 18:34.22

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Behind Kelly Hayes’ second individual title of 2015, the High Point University women’s cross country team surged to a second-place finish at the USC Upstate Invitational Saturday.

The Panthers claimed the top-2 spots in the event and finished just two points behind Appalachian State, the Southeast region’s sixth-ranked squad. HPU placed second with 49 points and also defeated the South region’s No. 13 team, Florida Gulf Coast (79 points) by a significant margin. Liberty (82) and Western Carolina (130) rounded out the top-5 teams at the event.

“I really like what we did today as a team,” head coach Jenna Wrieden said. “I think we tackled our goal of opening the race well and we never lost focus with the weather. We had a lot of intent today and I love what we did up front. Kelly winning is a big step for her and to post the time she did in these conditions is very respectable.”

Hayes crossed the finish line in 18:18.52 to win the race by more than 15 seconds. It marked the top 5k time of her collegiate career.

Junior Natalia Ocasio finished second in the 122 runner field with a strong time of 18:34.22 in the rain and mud-soaked conditions. The time also marked her top 5k finish of her HPU career.

Junior Cozette Collin earned a sixth-place finish overall in 18:46.18 while senior Katie Farina was eighth in 18:53.77.

Senior Sarah Bode was HPU’s No. 5 runner and crossed the finish line in 19:51.18 to place 32nd toward the team score.

“Our whole top-4 took a huge step forward and Sarah Bode did very well in our No. 5 spot,” Wrieden said. “There are a lot of positives we can take from today but we are not satisfied. We need to take this momentum and use it to improve in our next training cycle.”

Fellow senior Lindsey Siska (33rd, 19:54.09) was next for High Point, followed by senior Erika Peoples, who contributed to the team score with a 43rd-place showing (20:19.57).

Senior Julia Zautcke put together an individual 54th-place finish in 20:20.27, while senior Kasey Spence placed 70th in 20:56.57. Freshman Janelle Rothacker rounded out the Panther pack with an 86th-place showing (21:57.83).

From here, the Panthers will return to the Triad for the Wake Forest Invitational on Oct. 16 in Kernersville, N.C.