By Alexandra Richardson
The Union University women’s cross country team finished first out of 12 teams in the Vanderbilt Commodore Classic Black Division.
The tournament took place Sept. 15 at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.
The men’s cross country team finished 11th out of 15. Those who participated included teams from the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II, Division III and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics schools.
Three of the top seven runners in the final results are on the women’s team. Allison Martin finished third, Beth Wilson finished fourth and Audrey Hazlehurst took seventh.
Chris Mitchell was finished highest for the men’s team, coming in 46th place.
Audrey Hazlehurst said she knew that they had a chance to win but that she felt it would be hard.
“We weren’t going in thinking it would be easy, but we were really excited and pumped that we won,” Hazlehurst said.
Although the women’s cross country team usually races a 5K — 3.1 miles — this race was a 6K — 3.7 miles. Hazlehurst completed the race in 24:19, beating the eighth place runner by one second.
“I was having a really good race at first but ended slowing down because it was really hot,” Hazlehurst said. “Luckily two of our other girls picked it up, and we were still able to finish well.”
The men’s team raced an 8K — 5 miles — and Chris Mitchell’s time was 28:14, beating the 47th place runner by only .70 seconds.
“We knew going in to the race that it would be a tough battle, but we always give it our
best,” Mitchell said. “We give God the glory for a win or loss.”
Hazlehurst said Coach Gary Johnson is the team’s greatest motivation.
“We have practice at six every morning; even though we’re working together to win as a team, we are also competing against one another,” Hazlehurst said. “Coach Johnson definitely motivates us to do that. If somebody is ahead of us he doesn’t want us to just let them go.”
“Coach Johnson gives us different goals and if we accomplish those goals, then the next time he’ll try to push us even faster,” Mitchell said.
The cross country teams, new to Division II this season, are transitioning into the two-year process of qualifying for nationals in the NCAA.
“I am a little sad we have to wait two years, but it will be cool to have gone my freshman year and then hopefully again my senior year,” Hazlehurst said. “We have two years to train, so hopefully the whole team will get to go.”
The teams have already competed in four events, including the Union University Invitational.
They will each compete in the GulfSouth Conference Championships Oct. 20 in Birmingham, Ala., as well as the NCCAA National Championships on Nov. 10, in Cedarville, Ohio.