The Royals keep getting better and better. In the case of this Friday’s race at the Blue Ridge Open hosted by Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., the evidence wasn’t in the individual places, but in the times.
Ten of Eastern Mennonite’s 11 cross country men set their personal records at the meet. The Royals took 21st out of 28 teams in the gold race, but were in second place out of the D-III schools, topping ODAC rival Lynchburg by one place, but finishing behind Guilford College.
As he has at every race this fall, junior Ryan Gehman (Millersville, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) led the way. He finished 59th with a time of 25:53.79 on the 8k course, whacking nearly 35 seconds of his PR. Running in a field of 229 runners, mostly from D-I programs, Gehman was fourth among the D-III athletes, coming in behind a trio of Guilford men.
Jacob Landis (Sterling, Ill./Sterling) continued his rise after running his first race two weeks ago. The junior crossed 123rd with a time of 26:56.24, an improvement of more than a minute from his previous race. Freshmen Alec Thibodeaux (Staunton, Va./Fort Defiance) and Jared Nisly (Lancaster, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) weren’t that far apart from each other, with Thibodeaux timing at 27:30.24 in 154th and Nisly charting at 27:43.64 in 163rd, both slicing time off their PRs as well.
EMU’s final three runners held together in a pack, finishing with three seconds of each other. Jesse Parker (Wichita, Kan./Wichita East) led the trio in 28:48.21, followed by Robert Cook (Lexington, Va./Parry McCluer) at 28:49.53 and Jordan Leaman (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) at 28:51.54.
There was also an 8k open race, giving all of the men on the Royals’ roster a chance to race. Jonathan Nisly (Bluffton, Ohio/Bluffton) charted a time of 28:43.36, while Jeremiah Hines (Mt. Jackson, Va./Stonewall Jackson) came in at 29:08.12. Tim Martin (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) crossed the finish in 29:57.76, followed by Patrick Graber (Dayton, Va./Benjamin Logan) in 30:42.46. All the open times were PRs.
“I was really pleased with our guys today,” said Coach Jason Lewkowicz. “Our top four were really strong and we had numerous personal best times from guys in both races.”
In the gold race, EMU finished with 580 team points, just one spot ahead of Lynchburg at 617. The Hornets were picked to finish second in the ODAC’s preseason poll. Guilford, which was tabbed third before the season started, had 447 points.
The Royals get a week off before seeing how much they have improved from the start of the year, running at the ODAC Championships on Nov. 2 in Farmville, Va. In the ODAC Preview meet on the same course on Aug. 30, the men finished sixth out of ODAC teams.