BACK-TO-BACK! HPU women’s cross country repeats as Big South Champs

BACK-TO-BACK! HPU women’s cross country repeats as Big South Champs

• The Big South title is HPU’s second straight and third in five years (2011, 2014, 2015)
• Sophomore Kelly Hayes led HPU with a fifth-place finish in a personal best 5k time of 17:32.65
• Four HPU runners were named all-conference, which marks the most all-conference selections for the Panthers since 2011

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The High Point University women’s cross country team put forth an extraordinary all-around effort Saturday at Milliken Park to win the program’s second-straight Big South Championship and third in the last five years.

HPU won the race with a total of 47 points, while the region’s No. 9 ranked team, Coastal Carolina, finished second with 51. Liberty (58), UNC Asheville (108) and Radford (157) rounded out the top-5.

Despite Coastal Carolina claiming three of the top-5 spots in the race, HPU countered with four runners in the No. 4-9 positions. In addition, High Point’s No. 5 scoring runner eclipsed Coastal’s No. 5 student-athlete by nine spots to create the victory margin.

In all, HPU’s top-7 runners all posted collegiate-best 5k times in an outstanding all-around performance for the Panthers.

With Saturday’s victory, HPU has now claimed Big South championship titles in 2011, 2014 and 2015.

“Our program’s goal since I’ve been here has been to create a standard of championship excellence, and a third title in five years certainly helps validates that goal,” 2015 Big South Coach of the Year Jenna Wrieden said. “I’m so proud of our team. Every runner had a key role to play and executed that role superbly. We’re ecstatic to win a second-straight championship.”

For the sixth time in as many races this season, sophomore Kelly Hayes led HPU up front and put together an outstanding performance. The Pearl River, N.Y., native placed fourth in an impressive time of 17:32.65.

Junior Cozette Collin continued her late season push with another strong showing when it mattered most. The Brantford, Ontario, native finished sixth in a personal best time of 17:54.52. Fellow junior Natalia Ocasio was right behind in seventh with her top 5k time of 18:03.07.

Just two places later, senior Katie Farina capped her HPU cross country career with her best all-time performance, crossing the finish line in 18:09.56 to finish ninth. The Crozet, Va., improved upon her 2014 showing by nine spots.

Hayes, Collin, Ocasio and Farina all earned Big South all-conference honors for their efforts. It marks the most all-conference selections for the Panthers since HPU had five in 2011.

Senior Sarah Bode ran the best race of her career Saturday, earning HPU’s key No. 5 spot while finishing 21st in a top 5k time of 18:54.50. The mark was eight seconds faster than her previous best 5k time set in 2012.

“Our top-4 was outstanding today and really set us up well to win,” Wrieden said. “We knew our No. 4 runner needed to beat Coastal’s No. 4 for us to have a chance, and Katie did that. Sarah closed extremely efficiently down the stretch to create the large No. 5 gap that pushed us over the top.”

Fellow senior Lindsey Siska finished right behind in 22nd in a time of 18:55.37, while senior Erika Peoples was 28th in 19:09.11 to wrap up the career-best showings for the Panthers.

Senior Julia Zautcke finished 32nd in 19:13.32 while freshman Courtney Kerr was 45th in 19:33.32. Senior Kasey Spence rounded out the High Point contingent in Spartanburg with a 58th-place showing (20:20.54).

HPU head coach Jenna Wrieden was named Big South Coach of the Year for the second-straight campaign, while Zautcke earned the conference’s Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. Zautcke also was named to the Big South All-Academic Team in 2014.

HPU now takes a two-week break before returning to action at the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship Nov. 13 at Panorama Farms in Earlysville, Va.