Shahbaz Leads Cross Country at JMU Open
Courtesy: Southern Conference

NEW MARKET, Va. - Jahanzib Shahbaz finished fourth in the men's race, while Bethany King was 12th among the women to lead the VMI cross country teams at the JMU Open, contested Saturday morning in New Market, Va.

Shabaz led the way for VMI, serving as the Keydets' #1 runner for the first time in his career by timing in at 26:18 over the course, which measured just under 8K. Davone Hernandez finished ninth (26:35) and Justin Adams was 11th (26:43) as VMI's top three runners were all either freshmen or sophomores. 

"Jahanzib Shahbaz had a great race today," said VMI head coach Dr. Drew Ludtke. "Two years ago, he was playing quarterback on his high school football team and he ran his first cross country race less than a year ago. Overall, I thought some of our men had good races and other showed fatigue.  We trained through this meet - which is common in cross country - to get ready for the bigger meets we have this year. Some of our athletes went out a little harder than I would have preferred, but they were competitive and wanted to challenge with George Mason, so I was pleased with their effort and desire to compete at a high level."

Jay Broom, last year's Second Team All-SoCon honoree, made his season debut and was 14th in 26:59, while Kyle Sabourin placed 16th in 27:17 to round out VMI's top five. Jackson Betts (18th/27:25), Tripp Fitch (19th/27:31) and Micah Ellington (20th/27:40) completed the list of Keydets that finished in the top-20. 

The team results had Division I and non-Division I schools separated, and the Keydets finished second to George Mason (17 to 46) on the D1 side. VMI bested the only other D1 school in action, Longwood, and had a nearly 30-second better average time than any non-Division I program competing. 

On the women's side, it was King pacing the Keydets for the second straight race. She crossed the line in 20:17 to finish 12th on the 5,200-meter course, while Logan Luckett (17th/20:59) and Anna Armfield (18th/21:03) also earned top-20 finishes. 
Freshmen Jackie Rodriguez (23rd/21:29) and Megan Kelley (25th/22:15), along with sophomore Kathleen Yates (26th/22:24) rounded out VMI's top six. 

"I was happy with the result for our women's team," said Coach Ludtke. "I felt the ladies stuck to a great overall race plan. Bethany King looked strong and confident in leading the team for a second straight week, while Logan Luckett and Anna Armfield worked together to have a strong race. They moved up through the pack to wind up with strong finishes. I feel our #5 and #6 runners did well to close the gap to our top finishers, which will be a key to our team scores in upcoming races."

The women's team scores saw the Keydets best Longwood once again (78-118), while falling to meet winner JMU and runner-up George Mason. 

VMI cross country will return to action Sept. 15, when the Keydets take part in the Virginia Tech Alumni Invite in Blacksburg.