Belmont Cross Country takes on annual Chili Pepper Festival


Competing in Friday’s 34th annual Chili Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams finished 11th and 9th as the women scored 313 points to the men’s 412.


The Chili Pepper Festival was created in 1992 to bring together three of the area’s races, and now works to raise money for local cross-country programs. The event has grown to 6,500 runners, with a mix of open, high school and college races.


On the men’s side, the top runner for the Bruins was sophomore Kevin Vanderkolk, who finished 48 in the eight-kilometer race with a time of 24:47.3. Following Vanderkolk was sophomore Zac Shaffer, who finished at 25:01.3.


"It was not our best performance, with over 350 competitors in the field, we got off to a tough start and we couldn't find a way to move up well in the middle of the race," men’s coach Jeff Langdon said. "I saw some good things out there and we'll make a few minor adjustments”


The women had a top thirty finisher in junior Katie Flaherty, who finished 28 with a time of 17:25.08, shattering her old personal record by 34 seconds. After Flaherty, the Belmont women saw another personal best from junior Grace Litzinger who finished second for the team with a PR of 18:01.3. This race also was the season debut of sophomore Brooke Stromsland who finished at 72 with a time of 18:04.

"We had some big PRs from Katie from dropped close to 35 seconds and Grace who dropped about 25 seconds," women’s coach Kate Bucknam said. "I thought the girls raced well. Our middle pack really did a great job of staying close and working together throughout the race." 


For both races, the cross-country powerhouse University of Arkansas took home the win at their home course.

PHOTO Belmont women’s cross-country takes its mark at Chili Pepper Festival. Shawn David Price

This article was written by Rachel Finan

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