Eastern Michigan University’s men’s cross country team competed in its most demanding meet of the season thus far, earning a 17th-place finish in the Blue Race at the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Ind., Oct. 3.
The Eagles went up against a formidable field, as all 24 teams that competed were regionally ranked and 10 programs sat among the nation’s top-30.
Junior harrier Willy Fink paced the Green and White taking 25th out of a field of 200 with a mark of 23:49.70. The meet was won by University of Michigan’s Mason Ferlic, who led the No. 19 Wolverines to a victory with 97 points. The course, though slated as a five-mile race on the Notre Dame Golf Course, was cut roughly 200 meters short due to heavy rainfall affecting the ground prior to the meet.
Fink was followed by another Eagle making just his second appearance of the season, as freshman Lahsene Bouchikhi Lyceum nabbed the only other top-50 finish for the Green and White taking 39th in 24:02.50. Bouchikhi did an outstanding job setting the pace for the entire field early on before the other frontrunners kicked into gear in the final two miles.
Coming in as the third scorer and finishing in the top 100 was freshman Hlynur Andresson who notched a time of 24:26.40. The final two to score for the Eagles were senior Steve Hammond in 24:56.00 and sophomore John Knox III in 25:03.30. Together, the top five runners scored 424 points for the Green and White.
EMU coach John Goodridge noticed significant potential from his Eagles in the Men’s 5 Mile Blue.
“I saw some very positive things today that we will continue to build upon and continue improving,” he said on emueagles.com.” Fink and Bouchikhi ran with the lead pack for most of the race, which is an exciting step in their development.
Additionally, with two of our top-five not in the lineup, a few more guys gained valuable experience.”
The Eagles also saw some strong performances from their seven runners in the Men’s Open Race. Redshirt-senior Warren Witchell saw his first action of the 2014 campaign and finished 10th overall in a field of 86 with a time of 24:40.47.
EMU saw two more runners land in the top-50, as redshirt freshman Abel Flores took 33rd in 25:39.87 and freshman Cody Brizzolara finished 45th in 25:59.06. Additionally, former cross country harrier Harry Dixon finished fourth in 23:58.18 and was one of just four runners to break the 24-minute barrier.
The Green and White squad has two weeks to prepare before they travel to Terre Haute, Ind. for the Indiana State Pre-National Invitational. The meet will serve as a chance for the Eagles to run the same course that will be used at the 2014 NCAA Championships, hosted by Indiana State University.
The first race of the day will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 18.
Follow Jillian Seach on Twitter: @JSeachEcho