Cross Country Opens Season at Hokie Invite
Courtesy: Don Szczepanik

BLACKSBURG, Va. - The VMI men's cross country team finished second and the women's program placed third at the Hokie Invite, contested Friday evening in Blacksburg, Va. The meet was the season opener for both programs.

The VMI men saw young runners lead the way, as sophomores Justin Adams (10th/19:15) and Jahanzib Shabaz (13th/19:21) paced the Keydets. Micah Ellington was VMI's #3 (19th/19:37), while two freshmen - Davone Hernandez (22nd/19:43) and Jackson Betts (23rd/19:46) - rounded out the top five runners on the 6K course.

As a team, the Keydets' second-place finish saw the team credited with 50 points. Concord won the race with 38 points, while Radford finished third (57), Washington and Lee was fourth (77) and Longwood rounded out the teams in action (139).

"I feel as though our men's team showed solid improvement from the end of last season," said VMI head coach Dr. Drew Ludtke. "We will continue to work on developing the quality of our top athletes, but I think we have a good balance of great leadership and quality underclassmen that can lead to an excellent season."

The Keydets ran a significant portion of their roster at the shorter-than-normal race, as 14 runners took to the line for the VMI men's team.

Other finishers for the Keydets included Tripp Fitch (28th/20:04), Daniel Brewster (29th/20:04), Kyle Sabourin (30th/20:08), Carlos Fernandes (34th/20:16), Jake Mazziotta (39th/20:25), Adam Roberto (41st/20:45), Kellen Reeves (43rd/20:56), Josh Willard (53rd/21:50), Austin Strobel (54th/21:58), Luke Lysher (55th/21:58), Aaron Kempf (56th/22:04), Logan Sawyer (57th/22:06), Stephen Wolf (61st/22:23) and Josh Lassiter (62nd/22:35).

On the women's side, the Keydets finished third with 80 points. The team finished in a three-way tie with Radford and Washington and Lee, and came out behind the Highlanders and in front of the Generals in a rarely used tiebreaker that matched up each team's top five runners in head to head result listings. The hosting Virginia Tech program posted the top five individual finishers and won the meet with just 15 points.

Bethany King led the way for VMI with a seventh-place finish on the 4K course. King clocked in at 15:02, while Logan Luckett was 17th in 15:16. Freshman Anna Armfield was 18th in 15:16 and her classmate, Jackie Rodriguez, was 20th in 15:19. Kathleen Yates rounded out VMI's top five finishers with a 32nd-place finish, crossing the line in 16:24.

"I was very happy with our top four finishers on the women's side," said Coach Ludtke. "They stayed with the lead pack for over half the race and competed very well. We had a big gap from our fourth to fifth runner and will be working to improve that. Having four runners compete at a high level is a big step for our women's program, and I am looking forward to continuing to build our team."

The finishers for the VMI women also included Megan Kelley (34th/16:29), Isabela Melendez (36th/16:37), Sadie Sandifer (42nd/17:00), Megan Lindsey (48th/19:02) and Brittany Szczepanik (50th/20:00).

VMI cross country will return to action Sept. 9, when the Keydets take part in the JMU Open in New Market. Action is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.