NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Vanderbilt women's cross country team opened the 2009 campaign with a bang as they defended its title at the Belmont-Vanderbilt Opener at Percy Warner Park Friday evening. The women's team finished first out of nine teams while the men's team finished in a tie for fourth place.
The Vanderbilt women captured the team title after finishing with 42 points and 15 points ahead of second place team Alabama. UAB, Middle Tennessee and Tennessee rounded out the top five. On the men's side, Middle Tennessee took home first-place honors as Belmont and Lipscomb followed in second and third.
"I was pretty excited about the women's performance tonight," Head Coach Steve Keith said. "Our one through five runners ran only 15 seconds apart and our one through seven runners ran with just a 24 second gap. This is exactly what we need to do to be successful this season."
The Commodore women had three runners place in the top eight individually and seven in the top-16 in a field that consisted of 85 runners.
"Tonight showed that our team has a lot of depth and we have some older runners that will get into better shape as we get further into the season, but having eight to 10 girls that can run together like that is very positive," Keith said.
The VU women were paced by a pair of strong performances from sophomore Kristabel Doebel-Hickok and freshman Allie Scalf as they clocked 4K times of 14:34.20 and 14:39.82. Junior Rita Jorgensen finished two spots back of Scalf with a respectable 14:45.94 while sophomore Louise Hannallah posted a 14:48.39, good for 11th place.
"Kristabel ran tough today and I thought Allie Scalf put it out there which is great to see," Keith added.
Vanderbilt's other freshman, Kristen Findley, showcased her talent in her first collegiate race, crossing the finish line at 14:49.81 while sophomore Jordan White finished right behind with a 14:52.61, good for 14th. Adrienne DiRaddo finished in 16th place as she paced to a 14:58.45 while Alexa Rogers and Erin McManus notched 15:26.66 and 15:27.14, respectively.
"It's great to start the season off with a win and hopefully we can build off this as we host the Commodore Classic in two weeks," said Keith.
On the men's side, Vanderbilt was paced by the sophomore duo of Jenner Kizer and Kyle Rewick as they clocked times of 16:15.37 and 16:18.38 in the men's 5K, good for 14th and 16th place. Freshman Joseph Newman kept pace with the top Commodores for most of the race before registering a 16:25.29. Vanderbilt's top returnee, Thomas Davis finished in the top-25 individually as he notched a 16:33.08.
"We ran seven of our ten men today so we are a little behind the women's program in terms of conditioning and cohesiveness," Keith said. "I expect Thomas Davis to continue get into better shape through the season and lead up front, but I thought Jenner and Kyle did some great work up front and I think Joe Newman had a nice race for his first collegiate race. Overall I think the guys will do much better in a longer race."
The Commodore men and women's cross country teams will be back in action on Sept. 19 as it hosts the Commodore Classic at Percy Warner Park. The women's race will begin at 9 a.m. while the men's will follow at 10 a.m.
Check back next week to vucommodores.com to see a photo gallery from the Belmont-VU Opener.