SMC men's cross country finishes second in the nation

INA, Ill. -- The Spartanburg Methodist College men's cross country team placed second at the NJCAA National Cross Country Championships here on Saturday. The lady Pioneers placed 11th.

On a warm, but blustery day, many of the runners in the meet struggled to race as winds whipped runners at speeds up to 32 mph on the Rend Lake Golf Course. Yet, SMC Coach Mike Foley said his men seemed to persevere better than most and actually run better than expected.

"We came into the meet ranked fifth on the men's side and 17th  on the women's side and I believe we surprised people today with our performances," he said. "Last year, we had similar conditions with high winds in New Mexico and I'm sure our sophomores learned a valuble lesson there on how to handle adverse conditions."

Foley, in his seventh year as cross country coach at SMC, said his top two men ran aggressively at the start and were among the leaders, but that may have cost them as they had to battle the winds head-on instead of being able to draft behind other runners and save their energy.

The Pioneer men were led by freshman Zaid Smart (Princeton, N.J.), who finished sixth overall with a time of 26 minutes and 13 seconds for the 8 kilometer (4.97 mile) course. He was followed closely by sophomore John Raborn (Richlands, N.C.), in 18th place with a time of 26:50.0; freshman Alex Flores (Clover, S.C.), in 25th place in 26:56.1; sophomore Austin Steagall, (Gaffney, S.C.), 28th place and a time of 27:04.2; and the last scorer for the team, sophomore Max Peter Bejmer (Vallingby, Sweden), in 38th place with a time of 27:18.5

Also running for the Pioneers were sophomore Cody Ellison, 72nd place and freshman John Callis in 104th place.