The Bruins men’s and women’s cross-country teams had a strong showing at the Green Valley Road Race on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Furman University. The teams competed in both the 10-mile and the 8K events.

Although this is not part of the Bruins’ official season, Coach Landon Bright said the Bruins are not about to go into off-season mode.

“My approach for us this season is to really improve our ability to handle speed sessions,” Coach Bright said. “The majority of the team can run a good amount of mileage, but our top-end speed really did not get developed over the fall.”

This is the first year the Bruins have competed in cross-country, and already the team appears to be gearing up for next season. “[We want] to send the message that we are a serious, legitimate distance running program, which means we train and race year-round.” This also affects how the athletes must view their roles. “I really want the athletes to get in the mindset that this is a year-round commitment and not just something we do for a few months in the fall — and so far the team is adapting very well.”

The team placed in several categories on Saturday. In the 10-mile race, freshmen Josh Rush and Joshua Strubel placed first and second, respectively, in the 15–19 age group for men. In the men’s 20–24 age group, sophomore Andrew Fox and junior Joshua Anderson also took first and second places respectively, and sophomore Deborah Spannagel claimed first place in the women’s 20–24 age group.

The Bruins also found success in the 8K race, with senior Aaron Iles coming in third overall and sophomore Daniel Marinelli claiming fourth. Senior Abby Stanley and junior Brittany Gibson claimed the second and third overall women’s rankings. Sophomore James Labadorf took first in the 15–19 men’s age group, and freshman Caroline Oloffo also took first in the women’s 15–19 group.

In the 20–24 categories, senior Nathan Zakariasen, sophomore Sam Koenke, junior Jonathan Davis and senior Greg Thomas placed first, second, fourth and fifth, respectively. Junior Abi Dickinson, junior Brooke Wells and sophomore Rebekah Spannagel placed second, fourth and fifth, respectively.

“Going in [to the race], we could definitely feel a lot of energy. We were feeding off of each other. We knew we could do well,” Labadorf said.

But even the team was surprised at the huge success. “I think we surprised ourselves. I also think the results speak for themselves,” Labadorf said.

“I thought the team performed well,” Coach Bright said. “Our main goal for the race was just to shake off some dust and get back into a racing mindset. So with that being said, everyone looked pretty relaxed when finishing, and they did not push it too hard today.”

With next year’s season quickly approaching, Bright kept up the attitude of continuous improvement. “Running is just like anything else; the more we practice racing, the better we will be down the road,” he said.

“I told the team last summer that cross-country is a year-round sport, and if we checked out after half of a year, the improvement would never come. Essentially, the more we race, the more experience we will bring with us in future seasons.”