Women’s Cross Country Kicks Off Season with Win in Belmont Opener


James Tatum

The Vanderbilt women’s cross country team races in the annual Commodore Classic September 15, 2012. The women’s team placed 1 out of a field of 25 schools. Photo by James Tatum.

This past Saturday, the Vanderbilt Commodores Cross Country teams had a great showing at the Belmont Opener 5k at Percy Warner Park. Despite the muddy terrain, both the men’s and women’s team demonstrated the work they put in over the summer with the women taking the victory and the men placing third.

Ranked 5th in the SEC’s Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the women claimed their second-consecutive team title in the opener with a score of 21 points, a definitive victory over second-place Lipscomb (43 points).

The top six Commodore women were all among the race’s first ten finishers. Senior Maddie Criscione led the way, placing third overall with a time of 17:50.48. Crossing less than a second after Criscione was teammate Megan Huebner (17:50.815). Making a strong debut, freshman Gillian Mortimer finished sixth with a time of 18:09.715. Each of Vanderbilt’s top six female runners finished within thirty-eight seconds of each other.

“Our focus this week was getting out together as a group, connecting by that mile, and then really having a strong second two-thirds of the race. Execution-wise I think we did a really nice job of grouping together early,” assistant coach Bekah Smeltzer told vucommodores.com.

On the men’s side, junior Jason Vincze was the first Commodore to cross the finish line with a time of 15:39, good for an 11th-place finish and a 30-second improvement from last season. He was followed by Evan Suzman (16:15.408) and Waqqas Fazili (16:16.514), who finished 23rd and 25th, respectively. Rounding out Vanderbilt’s top four finishers, Caleb Van Geffen started his freshman season strong with a time of 16:22 and a 28th-place finish. The rest of the men’s team finished within two minutes of that time, with the top-five Commodore finishers within 60 seconds of each other.

“All in all, it was a good effort out there,” said head coach Steve Keith. “Obviously, there’s a lot of things we can improve on, but that’s why you have your first race.”

The Commodores will once again race at Percy Warner Park on September 16th, this time to host the annual Commodore Classic.