The ASU cross country team opened its season on Saturday in Flagstaff, competing in the 29th annual George Kyte Invitational with moderate success.
The men’s team finished third overall behind NAU and UA, while the women’s team took fourth, finishing behind NAU, UA and Central Arizona.
Overall, coach Louie Quintana liked what he saw.
“Our plan was to be patient, and we did a great job executing that strategy,” Quintana said. “Racing in Flagstaff is a major disadvantage to our group. We are not prepared to race at 7,000 feet, but we did a good job of staying off the pace early. I was extremely pleased with how we performed.”
On the women’s side, four runners finished in the top 20.
Redshirt freshman Natasa Vulic finished sixth in the women’s 5K, coming in at 18:11.8 in her first collegiate meet.
Redshirt sophomore Maureen Stringham came in right behind Vulic, finishing seventh with a time of 18:12.7.
Redshirt freshmen Catherine Loden and Kate Lydy also finished in the top 20, with Loden coming in 16th with a time of 18:37.0 and Lydy finishing 19th in 19:02.8.
Senior Rebecca Greenwald rounded out the Sun Devil lineup, finishing 58th at 22:37.3.
Stringham’s strong performance was the story of the day and earned praise from Quintana.
“She has just been steadily improving aerobically and taking the patient long-term approach that I’ve been teaching,” Quintana said. “She had not run under 19:30 in two years at ASU. [Saturday] she ran 18:12 at 7,000 feet. That’s real impressive stuff.
The men’s side had four runners finish in the top 25 in the men’s 8K.
Redshirt junior Collin Eckelman led the way for the Sun Devils, finishing 11th with a time of 26:18.7.
Redshirt freshman Matt Boughton made his collegiate debut and finished 19th in 26:50.2.
Junior Cameron Liston, a transfer from NAU running on his old home course, finished 22nd in 26:56.0, and redshirt sophomore Daniel Lovell finished 24th in 27:02.3.
Redshirt freshman Mason McHenry just missed out on finishing in the top 25, placing 27th with a time of 27:31.0. Redshirt freshman Ben Jankunas finished 39th overall in 28:41.2.
“The whole guy’s team was impressive [Saturday],” Quintana said. “All of these guys are putting in the work, and it is really showing with how they are handling racing.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com.