NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The rain began down-pouring minutes before the women's cross country race started. The medical tents nearly capsized from the collecting pools on their awnings. But the weather didn't slow down the Commodore cross country teams, or the hundreds of cheering spectators who crowded along the race path.
Once the meet began, Rita Jorgensen, Vanderbilt sophomore, sprinted past the competition to post the top woman's time at the Belmont-VU opener Friday afternoon at Percy Warner Park. Thomas Davis, VU junior, set the top time for the Commodore men and finished ninth overall.
Jorgensen finished five seconds faster than the next racer, a fading Alabama Crimson Tide runner, at 14:23.32. Davis crossed the timeline at 15:45.68. The sophomore shaved five seconds off her official time at last year's event, while the junior improved by nearly 20 seconds.
"Rita's a savvy racer," Steve Keith, VU head cross country coach, said. "She judges the competition well, doesn't over-extend herself, and ran a classic, smooth Rita race."
"Kristabel hadn't run cross country for almost two years now, so that was a great first effort for her," said Keith. "Amanda Scott, Adrienne and Alexa, that's the core of our front group, three were in the top 10 and two in the mid-teens."
"We anticipated Davis being our first runner, but the two freshmen Jenner and Kyle jumped up bigger than I thought they would," Keith added. "That was a great race for those guys.
"I thought the men ran overall times much better than last year."
Keith also explained that the teams ran better and appeared in better condition for this race than last year. Nordlund knocked off 15 seconds from his 2007 time, while seven guys finished in the top 30 of 88 runners.
"Overall both men and women were definitely running better than last year on the same course. So, that puts us on the right schedule," said Keith.
Tennessee and UAB rounded out the top three teams for the women with average times of 15:15.07 (Vols) and 15:12.61 (Blazers). Belmont (15:42.25) and MTSU (15:56.21) finished first and second on the men's side. The Alabama women also finished strong, while local schools Austin Peay and Lipscomb ran well for both teams.
"There was some good competition at this meet," said Keith. "All of those are top 10 if not top five teams in the region."