ROCK HILL, S.C. – Both the Clemson cross country men and the women finished first in the Winthrop Early Challenge in Rock Hill, S.C., on Friday. The men and women each won in a field of four that included Winthrop, Gardener-Webb and Presbyterian.
“Today’s race served the purpose of getting an early look at how we respond in competition as well as learn how to race as a team and with each other,” head coach Mark Elliott said. “It was a good start to the year.”
“Today was a great day as a team,” said distance coach Michael Porter. “We had our ups and downs with individuals but as a program we are leaving today healthy and better than we showed up. That’s all I can ask.”
The success didn’t come easy however as both teams went through a workout before the race to test the runners in the heat of competition.
“This group isn’t afraid of hard work. They are a great group of kids that are buying in to the potential of what this season has to offer. I hope today is just the beginning of the fun that this season is going to bring.”
Grace Barnett led the way for the women’s team finishing the 4K in 14:31.3, averaging 5:49.9 a mile.
“Grace ran confidently up front and got the win today. There are great things ahead for her this season. She gives us the ability to have someone that can be in the mix in every race this season. Which is needed for the teams success.”
Barnett was immediately followed by Evie Tate (14:43.6), Brianna Feerst (14:46.6), Elizabeth Dawson (14:58.0), Catherine Herring (15:00.0) and freshman Emily Headley (15:01.6). In fact, the Tigers claimed 11 of the top 20 finished including one through six.
The men enjoyed similar success as they also placed 14 of their 15 competitors in the top 20. The 15th Tiger finished 21st. Sophomore transfer James Quattlebaum won the men’s race, finishing the 6K in 18:47.3, averaging 5:02.2 a mile. Coach Porter was impressed by the High Point transfer.
“It’s easy to say James Quattlebaum was the most impressive, as he ended up winning the race, but the ease of which he ran today was the impressive part.”
The Tigers then finished third through eighth with Chris Cummings (19:22.05) leading a pack consisting of Evan Abdullah (19:23.81), Clayton Wilson (19:25.47), Micah Williams (19:28.46), James Dwyer (19:37.82) and Justin Lippert (19:38.41).
Coach Porter was also impressed with how freshmen, Micah Williams, Jack Henderson, Emily Headley and Erin McLaughlin performed in their first collegiate competition.
“Micah and Jack are both freshman that ended up in the top 8 on our roster. Being new and trying to fitting in with the team in a new environment is tough and they both weren’t afraid to mix it up with the upper-classman. We knew we had depth returning in the men’s upper-classman but having freshman that can add to that makes us even stronger.”
“Similar story to the men, Emily and Erin are both freshman that are adjusting quickly to our program,” Porter added. “Erin was the biggest surprise from comparing practices to the race. Our sport is about how you compete, not practice, she definitely stepped up today and showed that she can be a contributor in the races going forward.”
Clemson’s next test is next weekend on Saturday, September 12 as the Tigers will compete in the Furman Classic in Greenville, S.C.
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