GREENVILLE, SC - Behind the strength of four scoring performances from first-year freshmen, Mark Elliott's women's cross country team was runner-up at the season opening Furman Classic for the Tigers. The men's team followed with a sixth-place showing at Furman University's golf course. Furman won both team races. Clemson was without several top performers on both sides, including returning senior leader Natalie Anthony from the women's team and 2012 all-region runner Aaron Ramirez off the men's squad.
"Competitively, both teams looked good," Elliott said. "Hopefully, they build on it. I can at least say they started with an up, so that's good. I inherited some talent on the women's side, so I'm going to do the best I can with them. On the men's side, Roland ran strong and looked like he had a lot left in the tank."
Grace Barnett was the surprise of the morning, as the walk-on from Pawleys Island, SC led the women's team individually by finishing in eighth place. She posted a 6K time of 21:30.90. She was followed two spots later by senior Cara Talty, who ran to a finish of 21:38.46. The third through fifth scoring positions were all secured by freshmen - Alexa Womack (21:41.38) was 11th, Catherine Herring (21:52.83) was 15th, and Evie Tate (21:55.72) finished 18th. Brianna Blanton was next in line for the Tigers, taking 27th overall with a time of 22:03.83.
"We definitely realize that we needed to step up our game, with the talent some of our freshmen have," Talty said. "But it's exciting to know that when we get back to full strength, when Natalie, and Lisa Girard and Brianna Feerst run, we can be that much better as a team."
In the men's 8K competition, Roland Hakes was far and away Clemson's top performer. He steadily rose through the ranks as the teams completed each 2K loop. By the end, he brought home an eighth-place finish and personal best time of 24:10.76. The next four finishers for Elliott's team were tightly bunched, ranging from 37th to 43rd in the final order. James Dwyer (37th, 25:10.70), Josh Davis (38th, 25:11.70), Evan Abdullah (40th, 25:13.71) and Jack Felix (43rd, 25:20.68) comprised those positions.
The Tigers return to action next Friday at the Wake Forest Invitational in Kernersville, NC.