Eastern Michigan University’s men’s cross country team came out strong in its third meet of the season, taking three of the top-10 spots at the MSU-Auto Owners-Spartan Invitational on Friday. The 8K event sponsored by Playmakers included a field of more than 350 runners on Forest Akers East Golf Course in East Lansing, Mich.
“Each of our first two meets were used to give selected individuals competitive experience and team roles and this proved to be very effective,” EMU coach John Goodridge said.
The Eagles found their spot at the front of the pack early on in the race as freshman Lahsene Bouchikhi set the pace for the field throughout the first six kilometers. Bouchikhi fell slightly behind as the race progressed but still maintained a top position until the finish line.
Captain and junior Willy Fink was the first green and white harrier to cross the line. Fink ran with the lead group throughout the entire race before breaking off in the final 500 meters to finish runner up.
This was also Fink’s best finish of his collegiate cross-country career (24:39). Close behind Fink was sophomore Nick Raymond who finished in fifth place. Raymond ran alongside teammate redshirt freshman Hlynur Andresson for the majority of the 8,000-meter course and kicked it up a notch at the end for a time of 24:42.
“I added two of our top guys to the Spartan lineup for their first meet of the season as we faced our strongest competition to date,” Goodridge said. “Our top four executed the race strategy extremely well and gave us four low placings led by Captain Willy Fink’s near victory. This meet served as my first real evaluation of our fitness and I am pleased where we are at.”
Following Raymond was Bouchikhi, who fell to 10th (24:51) and Andresson in 14th (25:04). Fink, Raymond and Bouchikhi were the only Eagles to keep a pace of five minutes or less, along with the other seven runners in the first 10 to complete the course.
Steve Hammond finished in 49th with a time of 25:41. Hammond was preceded by EMU alumnus Curtis Vollmar who is a former EMU runner and three-time All-Mid-American selection in cross-country. Vollmar ran for the Playmakers in the race. Thirteen EMU harriers finished in the top half of the field.
“We have returning members who will be called upon to fill different roles in our lineup than last year as well as having several transfers and a large freshman class transitioning to our program and training,” Goodridge said. “I am quite pleased with how this process is developing. The guys have had a great attitude and been very coachable. We are making very nice progress.”
The Eagle harriers have three weeks to prepare for their next meet. The meet will take place at the illustrious Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Ind. The meet will include a variety of races and will begin at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 3.