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BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The USC Upstate men's and women's cross country teams turned in strong times against stiff competition Friday at the Paul Short Invitational hosted by Lehigh as senior Gilbert Kemboi (Eldoret, Kenya) claimed an impressive second-place finish in the men's 8K.
Both Spartan teams competed in the Gold race, which was the fastest of the three college race categories at the Paul Short Invite. In the men's 8K, the top three finishers were separated by a total of three seconds. Mark Dennin of No. 15 Georgetown took top honors with a time of 23:57, followed by Kemboi two seconds later, clocking in at 23:59. Kemboi edged Duquesne's Jim Spisak, who crossed the line third in 24:00.
"Gilbert did a really good job getting second-place today," said Upstate associate head coach Carson Blackwelder. "With 400-meters to go, it was a really tight race between the top three."
In the 37 team field there were 332 runners, who participated in Lehigh's Paul Short Invitational men's 8K race. Among the squads were three nationally ranked teams, including the 15th-ranked Hoyas. The No. 22 Villanova Wildcats and members of the No. 17 Princeton club also competed Friday.
The Spartans have continued to improve their individual times in each meet this season. Six Upstate men registered season-best times Friday, including Kemboi, who has recorded the best time in the Atlantic Sun Conference this year. Senior Davey Dennison (Carlisle, Pa.) posted a time of 25:51, while classmate Cameron Thomas (Niceville, Fla.) finished in 26:06. Upstate junior Ross Oden (Salisbury, N.C.) crossed the line with a time of 26:11, while junior Andrew Kipchumba (Eldoret, Kenya) and senior Christian Ritacco (Niceville, Fla.) recorded times of 26:30 and 26:44, respectively.
"We got 25th overall for the men's team, which is about what I was expecting," Blackwelder said. "Our times are gradually getting faster, so I'm pleased. It rained a lot overnight so it was a muddy and sloppy course. Plus, it was a really big field and that is a major factor in how a race plays out."
In the women's 6K race, 40 teams and 360 athletes competed in the Paul Short Invite with three teams, ranking nationally in No. 4 Georgetown, the defending NCAA Champion, No. 7 Providence and No. 9 Villanova.
The Spartan women were paced by sophomore Jasmine Polite (Goose Creek, S.C.), posting a personal-best time in the 6K of 22:54, beating her previous mark of 23:23.90. Senior Hannah Chaney (Brunswick, Ohio) was the second Upstate finisher, crossing the line in 23:59, while freshman Anastasia Kolesnitchenko (Boiling Springs, S.C.) followed with a time of 24:13. Sophomore Erin Gethin (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) also recorded an individual-record in the 6K with a time of 24:44, surpassing her pervious time of 25:47.35.
"On the women's side, we had some good times," Blackwelder said. "Erin had a PR and Jasmine had a PR. It was a good learning experience for our athletes to be in a race that big and that competitive. It was great for our freshmen."
Upstate freshman Ashleigh Torres (Roanoke, Va.) registered a time of 24:50, while fellow freshman Molly Bliss (Milford, Del.) crossed the line with a mark of 24:51. Senior Laura Transue (Anderson, S.C.) posted a time 24:59.
The Spartan men's and women's cross country teams return to action Oct. 13, hosting the Upstate Invitational at Milliken Research Park with a 10 a.m. start time.