From Belmont and Vanderbilt Athletics –
NASHVILLE – The Vanderbilt women’s cross country team made it back-to-back wins at the Belmont Opener, claiming the title among Division I institutions on Saturday morning with a team score of 21 points. The men’s team took third with a score of 91 points.
For the second consecutive year and the fourth time in the last six years, the Vanderbilt women claimed the team title with 21 pts – 22 points ahead of the Lipscomb who took runner-up honors. Maddie Criscione was the first Commodore across the finish line with a time of 17:50.468, good for a third-place finish. Criscione paced a group of six Vanderbilt runners that placed in the top 10 including teammate Megan Huebner who crossed just 347 milliseconds after Criscione.
In total, Vanderbilt’s top six female runners all finished within 38 seconds of each other and each of the Commodore harriers placed in the top 30.
On the men’s side, Jason Vincze was the first Commodore to cross the finish line in 11th place with a time of 15:39.326. Evan Suzman and Waqqas Fazili were the next to cross for Vanderbilt with times of 16:15.408 and 16:16.514 good for 23rd and 25th place, respectively. Caleb Van Geffen rounded out the Commodores contingent in the top 30 with a time of 16:22.453 and a 28th-place finish.
Vanderbilt’s top four male runners all finished within 43 seconds of each other with the top three finishers – Vincze, Suzman and Fazili – crossing within 36 seconds of each other with a mere second separating Suzman and Fazili. In all, Vanderbilt runners all finished in the top 50 of the overall standings.
Though the Belmont men’s cross country team ran a coordinated and conservative race Saturday, Matt Edwards‘ finishing kick was enough to earn the senior a Belmont Opener championship.
After running as a pack over the opening two miles, Edwards burst to the finish line to win his first NCAA race and help Belmont to a team title as well at soggy Percy Warner Park.
Edwards finished 5 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor in 15:25.35 and five Belmont runners ended up in the top eight placers overall. The Bruins edged Lipscomb 26 team points to 29.
“I felt awesome the whole way,” said Edwards, a native of Glamorgan, Wales, now in his second and final year competing for Belmont. “A few Lipscomb guys were coming back to me and that’s when the competitive juices kicked in.”
Right behind him was the Lipscomb duo of Silas Griffith (15:30.53) and John Green (15:32.28), but then came a pack of Bruins all within about four seconds of each other. Senior Luke Evans (15:33.36) placed fourth, sophomore Ben Weisel (15:36.07) sixth, senior Anthony Didion (15:36.79) seventh and junior Kaden Eaton(15:37.68) eighth. Senior Matt Blivin (15:40.65) followed closely in 12th and sophomore Chase Ballard (15:54.83) finished 14th.
All eight Belmont runners spent the first half of the 5K race grouped in a tight pack, hanging back from a large pod of Lipscomb and Vanderbilt competitors. In the first meet of the season and on a wet course, head coach Jeff Langdon wanted his teams taking it easy.
“The guys and girls both did pretty much exactly what we wanted,” Langdon said. “We wanted to go out conservative, run as a pack. We executed well, didn’t really care about results.”
Some sparkling results came anyway, especially for Edwards. His 15:25.35 marked an NCAA career best, edging his time at this race a year ago by less than a second. He was second at the 2016 Belmont Opener.
“We’ve increased his mileage significantly from two years ago,” Langdon said. “We have him running 15 or 20 more miles a week than he’s ever run and I think that’s just the difference.”