West Virginia Wesleyan's men powered through the mud Saturday morning, posting a convincing victory at the Davis & Elkins Forest Festival Invitational. The Bobcats placed seven runners among the top 11 finishers, closing the morning with a team score of 21 points.
Gannon University of Erie, Pa., placed second with 56 points. The rest of the men's team scoring included Ohio Valley with 86 points, the host Davis & Elkins squad with 118, Fairmont and Glenville tied for fifth with 130.
"We had some guys run some smart races," Wesleyan head coach Jesse Skiles said. "In the mud and with these hills, you really have to focus on maintaining pace and rhythm and not get too crazy early in the race. I felt our guys did a good job of picking their spots to move and surge and when to back off."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Andrew Ferguson
Davis & Elkins’ Amber Abbott looks to cross the finish line Saturday during the Forest Festival Invitational.
Nathan Whitacre led the Bobcats, rolling to the individual title. The former Hampshire High School standout, covered the 8,000-meter layout in a time of 29:41. He was followed by teammate Andy Kall, who came in the runner-up spot just six-seconds back.
Glenville's T.J. Abel produced a strong late kick to place third. Wesleyan snared five of the next with spots with Aaron Estep (4th, 29:53), Lucas Greza (6th, 30:03), Drew Woodford (8th, 30:21), Andrew Knotts (10th, 30:35), and Taylor Stacy (11th, 30:39).
Junior Tommy Boone was Davis & Elkins' top finisher, placing 20th in 32:07. Other scorers for the Senators included Zach Hanshaw (26th, 32:57), Owen Harnett (27th, 33:20), Dustin Mathers (31st, 34:41), and Derek Sparks (33rd, 34:51).
Rain was the order of the day, as the rains began shortly before the women's race, and continued in steady doses. By the time the men's race embarked, most of the upper trail had turned to a muddy track.
Saturday's race included 71 finishers in the women's race, and 43 in the men's race.
West Virginia Wesleyan's women utilized a strong pack and good fortune to win a muddy Forest Festival Invitational Saturday morning at Davis & Elkins' historic cross country course.
The Bobcats scored a team total of 17 points outdistancing second place Gannon by 45 points.
Wesleyan placed five runners in the top six, though the result did include a mishap on the course where the top three runners, led by Charleston's Debbie Amos, took a wrong turn in the race's final mile. In the end, it was Wesleyan's Erica Walker who pulled out the victory, covering the 6,000-meter layout in 24:10.
Walker was followed closely by teammate Rachael Hulett, who also clocked a 24:10, and Loren McDaniel in 24:12. Ashli Knotts powered home in fifth (24:24), with fellow senior Christine Azevedo in sixth (24:26). Amos recovered to split the Bobcat pack, placing fourth in 24:16.
Sophomore Ellen Cantaral was the top Davis & Elkins finisher, leading the Lady Senators with a ninth place finish in 24:58. D&E finished sixth overall with a team score of 134. Cantaral was followed by teammates Amber Abbott (32nd, 27:36), Sydney Mucha (36th, 27:51), Meredith Titus (49th, 29:10), and Becky Verbonitz (54th, 29:31).
The University of Charleston placed third as a team behind Amos' sterling effort with 83 points. Fairmont followed in fourth (115) and Ohio Valley (116). D&E outlasted seventh place Glenville as the Pioneers closed the day with 210 points.
"It is always a special day at this meet, and it is a wonderful setting for a cross country meet," Wesleyan head coach Jesse Skiles said. "You really can't beat a September or October day in Elkins, and coach (Will) Shaw always does a great job with this meet. A European style course like this is real cross country."
Skiles has been bringing his Bobcats to the meet in all of his 21 years at the Bobcat helm, and before that, his Glenville teams of the 80's. But this year will be the last in which the bulk of the participants ran as members of the WVIAC.
Next Season, Davis & Elkins will be moving to the GMAC. Ohio Valley, which ran here Saturday, will also be going to that league. Wesleyan, Charleston, Glenville, and Fairmont, all perennial participants in the Forest Festival race, will all be moving to the new Mountain East Conference.
"It is going to be different, and it is sad in many ways because of all the history in the conference, but I also understand that there were a lot of dynamics involved in the moves," Skiles said.
"Even though we are going to different leagues, I am still planning to keep bringing our team to the Forest Festival, and to continue our relationship with D&E.
"Part of it is budgetary, but the biggest part is the fact that I have a tremendous amount of respect for Will Shaw and I also love this course."
Davis & Elkins returns to action next week at Ohio Valley, while Wesleyan travels to Raleigh, N.C., for a Friday night race at the Adidas Invitational.