Aug. 29, 2008
The South Carolina cross country team opened its 2008 season with a victory at the Gamecock Invitational, finishing in front of six NCAA Division I and six Division II teams. Seven Gamecocks placed in the top 10 to give South Carolina its third first-place finish at its home meet since 2003.
With the thermometer tipping 85 degrees at the starter's pistol, the 5K race was run under hot and humid conditions at picturesque Hilton Field. Right away the top four Gamecocks and the top two runners from eventual second-place finisher Coastal Carolina broke away from the rest of the field. A second pack of Gamecocks ran in front of the remaining group.
At the end of the first one-mile loop, Carolina freshman Beatrice Biwott paced the leading group of six, which included her teammates Shannon Walls, Ashley Evens, Lisa McKinney and Coastal Carolina's Christian Johnson and Shelby Donahue. In the second mile, McKinney moved to the front to set the pace in the group.
On the final lap of the course, Walls took the head of the pack. Halfway through the loop, Johnson joined her in a breakaway that left the group of six stretched out behind it. Johnson took the lead up the last hill, which proved to be the winning move as she held on for first place. Her teammate made a similar move moments later to pass Walls on the downhill in the final 500 meters to collect second place.
The Gamecocks took the next six places in the field as Walls led the South Carolina pack - Evens, McKinney, Biwott, Nichole Rheinlander and Elizabeth Heath, in that order - across the finish line before Coastal's number three finisher came through. South Carolina freshman Katie Walls rounded out the Gamecock squad in 10th place.
"Lisa McKinney had a great race. She ran up near the front. Shannon Walls has been one of our top runners the whole time and so has Ashley Evens. In our packs, it's been kind of interchangeable. That is probably going to be our strength this year, keeping our pack together and moving closer to the front," head coach Stan Rosenthal said.
With 25 points, South Carolina finished well in front of Coastal Carolina's second-place 42 points. With the decisive victory under their belts, the Gamecocks plan to continue their success.
"Winning is always good. We just need to be better up front as we get to better meets. It was a very good start to the year," Rosenthal said.
The Gamecocks are back in action Sat., Sept. 7, as they travel to Spartanburg, S.C., for an 8 a.m. start against 26 other teams from across the Southeast and Arizona, including archrival Clemson, at the Eyeopener. Again, they plan to stay in a pack and push a little harder to secure another victory.
"We can go out maybe a little stronger. We can finish a little stronger. I think if we stay as a group again, we will do really well," McKinney said.
The Gamecock Invitational also included a men's race, won by Coastal Carolina. Individually, the Chanticleers' Jamie McCarthy crossed the line first.
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