BOONE, N.C. – Junior Ashley Schnell won the individual title in the women's 5k race before teammate Joey Thompson claimed runner-up honors in the men's 8k race to lead UNCG on Saturday at the Southern Conference Cross Country Championships.
Schnell's individual title was the first-ever individual title in school history. The men's team finished in second place overall, while the women's team came in third place.
"I couldn't be more proud of the way we competed today," said coach Linh Nguyen. "Both teams felt like they could contend for the title and both were right in the race. The men were 11 points from a title and the women 16. Those are not big margins in cross country."
In addition to winning the race, Schnell was named SoCon Runner of the Year and also earned first-team All-SoCon honors. Teammate Shaina Sumney finished in fourth place to also earn first-team All-SoCon honors.
On the men's side, Thompson and Mike Koech were named to the All-SoCon First Team. AJ Savoia earned second-team All-SoCon honors after finishing in 13th place. Kenny Hinman was named to the All-SoCon Freshman Team, as well, on the men's side.
Schnell edged out her nearest competitor by nearly six seconds as she completed the 5k course in a time of 17:39.98. Sumney wasn't far behind as she ran a 17:56.41 to finish in fourth. Kerry Hartman nearly earned All-SoCon honors as she finished in 15th place with a time of 18:35.62. Her time was just .46 seconds behind 14th place, which would've earned her All-SoCon honors.
Ginny Cronley also had a great race for the Spartans as she came in 17th place in a time of 18:47.92.
"As they have in every race this season, our women followed the race plan exactly," said Nguyen. "It paid off for Ashley and Shaina, as Ashley won and Shaina was fourth. We had the first-ever individual title in UNCG history and the highest team finish. Our women's top four runners were the best in the meet and they all return next year. Today was great and the future of the program is very bright."
On the men's side, Thompson finished nearly 10 seconds behind Emmanuel Kirwa from Chattanooga with a time of 24:39.05. It marked the third straight year that Kirwa has won the SoCon individual title.
Koech also had a nice race as he came in fifth place by running a 24:52.33. Savoia ran a 25:14.98 to finish in 13th place, while Andy Clyne nearly earned All-SoCon honors again as he came in 17th place in a time of 25:37.43. Jermaine Coore was the final men's runner to score for the Spartans as he ran a 26:01.48 to finish in 29th.
"I can't say enough about our men this year," said Nguyen. "They've come together throughout the season and produced the greatest year in UNCG history. Joey finished second today in a really strong individual race. Mike gave us two guys in the top five for the second straight year. This is the first time we've come away from this meet with a team trophy. I'm really proud of the effort today. The team stepped up this year and should be even better next year.
"The only sad part about today is that it was the last SoCon cross country race for our three seniors - Tiffany Garber, Andy Clyne and AJ Savoia," said Nguyen. "I can't express how much these three mean to me and the program. They've given four great years to the goal of elevating this program, and what we did today would not have been possible without them."
The Spartans will return to competition in two weeks as they travel to Louisville, Ky., for the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship on Nov. 13.
2. Joey Thompson, 24:39.05; 5. Mike Koech, 24:52.33; 13. AJ Savoia, 25:14.98; 17. Andy Clyne, 25:37.43; 29. Jermaine Coore, 26:01.48; 39. Kenny Hinman, 26:31.94; 44. Brian Carrington, 26:38.26; 48. Tyron Alston, 26:47.55; 85. Taylor Day, 29:05.70
1. Appalachian State, 55 points
2. UNCG, 66
3. Chattanooga, 74
4. Davidson, 100
5. Furman, 118
6. Elon, 153
7. Western Carolina, 180
8. College of Charleston, 197
9. Samford, 236
10. The Citadel, 278
11. Wofford, 292
1. Ashley Schnell, 17:39.98; 4. Shaina Sumney, 17:56.41; 15. Kerry Hartman, 18:35.62; 17. Ginny Cronley, 18:47.92; 52. Tiffany Garber, 19:37.82; 56. Kelly Montague, 19:46.40; 70. Anna Grimes, 20:13.75
1. Samford, 71 points
2. Appalachian State, 74
3. UNCG, 87
4. Chattanooga, 123
5. Elon, 135
6. Furman, 144
7. College of Charleston, 149
8. Davidson, 161
9. Western Carolina, 202
10. Wofford, 274
11. The Citadel, 319
12. Georgia Southern, 357
- UNCG -