Cross-country teams outrun several Division I opponents

| Senior Sports Editor

Though cross-country meets before November serve primarily as tune-ups for conference, regional and national championship meets, the Greater Louisville Classic presents an annual opportunity for Washington University to test its mettle against opponents from Divisions I and II.

“It’s good experience—our goal is to do well at nationals, and so to have that experience prior to nationals, regardless of how great they run, is just invaluable,” head coach Jeff Stiles said. “You just can’t get it anywhere else.”

It also offers the chance for the Bears to regularly defeat some of those supposedly upper-echelon Division I programs. A new rule this year spared some schools the embarrassment, decreeing that Division I would have separate standings despite competing in the same races as everyone else. So while the meet results may not reflect it, the Bears returned home with the knowledge that they outran more than a fair share of Division I teams.

The nationally fourth-ranked men’s team beat most of them, as its 2:07:15.18 combined time among the top five runners edged out 18 of 20 Division I schools on Saturday in Louisville, Ky. Behind top-20 finishes from junior Drew Padgett and senior Kevin Sparks, the Bears earned third place among non-Division I teams. Only the University of Guelph, a Canadian school, and Division II Southern Indiana University outpaced the Bears.

The No. 26 women’s team finished fifth among non-Division I teams and 18th overall.

Padgett and Sparks led six Bears placing in the top half of a 269-runner 8k field. Although the field against which they were scoring was watered down due to the changed results system, both exceeded the previous best finish for Wash. U. at the Greater Louisville Classic.

“Kevin Sparks last year was 29th, and that was the best finish anyone had ever had in the meet, so this year to finish 15th and 16th was pretty exciting for those two guys,” Stiles said.

Among the other four Bears in the top half were top-100 finishers Michael Ellenberger and Elliott Petterson, both seniors. Ellenberger came in 35th overall and Petterson was 83rd. They were followed by 105th-place finisher Ryan Senci and 109th-place finisher Brett Baker, both juniors.

Junior Lucy Cheadle set the tone for the women’s team in 31st place out of 288 runners on the 5k course. Cheadle’s second race since an injury hampered her track-and-field season was eighth-best among non-Division I runners.

“She ran really conservative [at first]—was way back and then just ran like gangbusters the last two miles,” Stiles said.

Freshmen Sarah Curci and Annie Marggraff maintained their spots in the Bears’ top five, finishing 79th and 147th overall, respectively. Slightly ahead of Marggraff was sophomore Ellen Toennies in 139th place, and senior Elizabeth Worley finished seconds behind the freshman in 157th.

The Bears also had runners compete in the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville John Flamer Invite. The men’s team finished third overall, and the women’s team placed fourth. Nine Wash. U. men’s runners in the 8k race finished in the top half of a 61-runner field, and seven members of the women’s team earned top-half spots out of 59 competitors.