The first hint of fall was in the air at Saturday morning’s Furman Cross Country Classic in Greenville. Blue skies and a crisp cool breeze helped produce a number of outstanding performances for prep and collegiate runners in the early season meet. Twenty-seven collegiate teams, including nine NCAA Division 1 schools competed in the inaugural meet at the Furman Golf Course.
The grass course consisted of a two kilometer loop for the college athletes and a one mile loop for the high schoolers. A European style course was developed for the collegiate runners with several man-made obstacles that they had to traverse through.
For the host Furman Paladins, it was a banner day for their running program as both the men and women netted team victories against a couple of highly ranked schools. The Paladins were led by a group of promising looking freshman who showed no signs of inexperience.
"For this meet to be in its first year, I was very pleased with the turnout both in terms of numbers as well as quality of teams," Furman head coach Robert Gary told the school website. "Well over half of our Furman athletes were running this distance for the first time in their lives, so I was very pleased with the final results. In particular, I was very proud of how willing each team was to go out and attack a very difficult course. I know we are not the favorites to win the Southern Conference title, but that still remains our goal."
For the men, the Paladins saw a huge breakout performance by freshman Tanner Hinkle. The former track and cross country standout from the state of Michigan finished second in 23:53.87 (4:48 mile pace) just seven seconds behind High Point University’s Patrick Crawford. Also in the front of the pack for Paladins was Troy Reeder (4th place/24:04.80), Tripp Hurt (7th place/24:10.24), Connor Sorrels (10th place/24:15.11) and Brock Baker (12th place/24:16.65). Four of Furman’s top five men were freshman and the team’s 36 points were enough to beat the likes of Clemson, Duke, Georgia and Georgia Tech.
The Paladin women were paced by freshman Grace Tinkey’s second place finish on the 6K course with a time of 20:31.98. Junior Sinead Haughey was third at 20:42.70 while freshman Allie Buchalski finished fourth in 21:03.19.
Tinkey and Buchalski were both prep stars in Georgia before committing to Furman. Tinkey competed at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships down in Orlando, Florida and won the state individual cross country championships each year from 2008-2011. Buchalski was named the 2012 Georgia Gatorade Runner of the Year where she was a three time state cross country championship.
In the first meet of the season two weeks ago at the Western Carolina Cross Country Invitational, Sinead Haughey was the top Paladin finisher in the women’s two mile course. Haughey, whose parents Jim and Laurie ran cross country and track at Clemson, improved a full minute from her previous best at the 6K distance on Saturday.
“As always, my main goal is to simply continue improving,” Haughey said in an interview with RunFurman. “I know I’ve got a lot of room for improvement, and I’m really looking forward to working harder than ever this year towards becoming a better and stronger athlete in general.”
Furman’s next cross country meet is scheduled for September 28 at the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree.
Complete Furman Results
Men 8K (1st place out of 9 Division I teams)
2nd Tanner Hinkle 23:53.87
4th Troy Reeder 24:04.80
7th Tripp Hurt 24:10.24
10th Connor Sorrels 24:15.11
12th Brock Baker 24:16.65
31st William Ivey 25:02.04
39th Nate Reich 25:12.50
41st Lee Shearer 25:19.15
49th Tyler Greathouse 25:26.13
51st Jack Miller 25:35.64
59th Shawn Walker 25:47.60
65th Bradley Gossett 26:04.45
Women 6K (1st place out of 9 Division I teams)
1st Grace Tinkey 20:31.98
2nd Sinead Haughey 20:42.70
4th Allie Buchalski 21:03.19
19th Catherine Burton 21:55.92
20th Ann Sisson 21:56.02
25th Julia Rodriguez 22:02.14
33rd Laura Miller 22:13.62
38th Kacie Schoen 22:24.65
58th Anna McBride 22:54.48
60th Hannah Schilpp 22:55.99
62nd Maddie Wolf 22:58.33
78th Georgia Compton 23:45.62
The event took place in congruence with Paladin football’s home opening win, 21-20, over the Presbyterian College Blue Hose. Furman’s campus was bustling with jam-packed parking lots and festive tailgaters who arrived in the early morning hours on Saturday.
Later in the morning, The Furman Cross Country Classic shifted to the high school athletes. Among local runners, Junior Micah Williams of Greer Middle College Charter High (Taylors) set a new personal record in the 5K with his 16:18.10 mark, good enough for 9th place.
J.L. Mann High School (Greenville, S.C.) finished 4th as a team for the girl’s division. The team had three top twenty finishers, among 120 competitors in the 5K race: Ellen Caniff (12th place/20:01.64), Aby Cason (19th place/20:13.65), and Sequoia Brown (20th place/20:16.74).
Full results from the 2013 Furman Cross Country Classic can be seen at http://www.ptgrouponline.com/Live/2013/XC/Furman1/ along with complete event coverage at http://sc.milesplit.com/meets/133732-furman-classic-featured-event#.UjXBX6fD9jo