NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Commodore cross country teams arrived at Percy Warner Park Saturday morning shorthanded, but ready to improve upon impressive performances at the Belmont-VU opener two weeks earlier.
The `Dores didn't disappoint. Both teams won the Commodore classic, as Rita Jorgensen (17:57.39) finished first overall for the women and Jenner Kizer (26:39.08) first for the VU men.
"Rita breaking 18 minutes is a nice bench mark on this course," Steve Keith, VU head coach, said. "I think she's probably 10-12 seconds faster than last year.
"Individually, it was fantastic to see Jenner, one of our freshman, lead the group."
Keith maintained, however, that the team effort outweighs the individual performance.
"This was about us grouping as a team, and putting five people in the top 10," he remarked. "It's obviously positive to win as a team and to run as a group."
"Not having Adrienne, one of our top runners from the previous weeks, we knew we'd have to work a little bit in our fourth, fifth and sixth runners." Keith added. "We were without Matt Long today, so we knew we were going to be a little thin."
The first, five runners for women's team grouped together early and ran at the front of the pack for most of the race, placing four runners in the top 10 and six in the top 20. Jorgensen pulled ahead in the final lap and finished five seconds ahead of second place.
"It was a very nice effort," said Keith. "Kristabel ran about what Rita ran last year, and Amanda and Alexa ran much better than our third and fourth runners ran here last year."
James Kasten jumped out early for the men to set the pace. Jenner Kizer and Thomas Davis soon settled at the front of the pack, finishing fourth (26:39.08) and seventh (26:47.69) overall.
The men also put six runners in the top 20, as Kyle Rewick (26:58.61), Rob Whiting (27:00.85), Mike Nordlund (27:06.89) and Kasten (27:27.82) placed 10th, 11th, 13th and 20th.
"The first five-mile race is always interesting when you add that extra couple miles," Keith noted. "I think we probably had maybe a 30-second gap from one to five, which over a five-mile race was excellent."
Collectively, the men's team averaged 26:54.63 in the 8k race on a beautiful late-September morning in Middle Tennessee, the women 18:37.07 in the 5k.
The Commodores' will run again at the Louisville Invite on Oct. 4 in Louisville, Ky, which will test both teams' performances as a group.
"We have a huge, massive meet in Louisville," said Keith, "and at that point we're going to need to really know where each other are and run as a group because you can get lost really easily in a 300-person field.
"So, running as a group is still very important, and coming together as a team, which was nice to see today."