Men’s cross country runs away with 1st place finish in N.Y.

Brian Thursby

Women take 4th behind runner-up finish from newcomer Alex Lizarribar

After a men’s victory and the women placing in the top three at the Tommy Evans Invitational, the Kent State cross country team had big expectations to fulfill – and they met them.

The Flashes’ second meet Saturday at the Iona Invitational in the Bronx was a decisive victory for the men and a solid fourth-place finish by the women.

The men’s team led with a score of 59 points, beating second-place Wisconsin-Madison by 15. The women’s team finished with 132 points and was two points shy of third-place Wisconsin.

The men’s team held a strong grip on the competition, finishing with four runners in the top 20. Junior Scott Hilditch was the top runner for the men’s team with a fifth-place finish and a time of 25 minutes, 33.47 seconds.

Senior Aiman Scullion finished in eighth place in 25:43.69. Junior John Minen placed ninth closely behind Scullion with a time of 25:45.28. Senior Tony Jordanek finished near the end of the Top 20 with a 19th place finish and a time of 26:03.35.

The women’s team placed two in the top 20. Junior Alexandra Lizarribar ran her first collegiate race and finished with a strong second-place finish for the Flashes with a time of 22:52.10. Senior Audrey Maheu closed the top 20, finishing with a time of 23:49.52.

The individual men’s champion for the meet was unaffiliated runner Harbert Okuti, a recent graduate of Iona College with a time of 25:20.76. Finishing closely behind Okuti was Eric Finan of Cincinnati with a time of 25:21.60. The winner of the women’s individual was Sammy Silva, of Harvard, with a time of 22:35.43.

The Flashes overcame hilly terrain and a crowded field for a strong finish in a critical early meet of the season.

Sophomore Michael Heller described the race as chaotic, but said Kent State’s early position helped ensure a win for the men.

“It was a big mob out there,” Heller said. “We had a good position, though. We were in the middle; all we had to do was run straight.”

Kent State coach Mark Croghan said he was proud of both teams’ performances, especially Lizarribar’s.

“We went into the race with a plan and things we wanted to accomplish, and we executed those plans brilliantly,” Croghan said. “Alex (Lizarribar) finished second on her first collegiate race. This is a really good start for her.”

Croghan expected the teams to do well, but he said there are things to improve on still.

“It is not a surprise as to how we competed,” Croghan said. “We did a nice job executing the race plan. However, there are certain things between now and conference to make us a better team. We need to continue to do the right things. We need to keep the focus on running well.”

The Flashes will try to keep the momentum rolling next Saturday at the Ohio Invitational in Athens.

Contact sports reporter Brian Thursby at [email protected]