Updated: Sep 20, 2022
Men’s and women’s cross country teams woke up bright and early for the Commodore Classic to take to the track a familiar Percy Warner Park course Friday.
The Bruins lined up for their second race of the season accompanied by highly competitive teams from Middle Tennessee State University, University of Missouri and University of Kentucky.
But the men’s team finished fourth overall while the women finished fifth overall, marking a drop in performance from their first meet of the season, where both teams finished as No. 1.
The 8K was a team effort for the men, with freshmen stepping up and returners keeping pace.
Graduate student Aidan Thompson finished fourth individually for the Bruins with a time of 24:52.5.
“I’m happy with it and ready to get after it again in two weeks’ time,” Thompson said. “We are so early in the season now — we are still just building momentum.”
In the absence of top runner Ben Naeger at Friday’s race, Belmont cross-country director Jeff Langdon encouraged the younger runners to show what they got, and they did.
“Those were some of the fastest times we have ever had on this course for the freshmen so that’s gonna be huge for us going into conference,” Langdon said.
First-year Bruins Kevin Vanderkolk and Jacob Ricks placed 13th and 26th respectively, with upperclassmen Ethan Hammer and Finn Birnie crossing the finish line in between for a cumulative score of 82 points.
While the men beat host Vanderbilt University, the women’s team fell short of their Nashville rival with a fifth place finish in their 5K compared to the Commodores’ second.
Freshman Brooke Stromsland led the way and collected her second top-15 finish of the season in 17:45.7.
“This makes me feel so much more confident, I think it kinda just shows me that I can hang with the pack and that I am just as capable as they are,” Stromsland said. “And seeing how close we came in after each other is just so impressive.”
With teammates Katie Flaherty and Kaitlyn Vanderkolk placing in the 20s, Brooke Garter as No. 30 and Betsy Gordon following with a top-40 finish, the women’s team collected a team score of 130 points.
Cross-country assistant coach Kate Bucknam enjoyed seeing Stromsland’s improvement from her first collegiate race, and she left the course feeling proud of her team, she said.
“I’m not surprised, she’s a stud and she’s getting better each week,” Bucknam said. “I think they got a good taste of what it’s like to run with some big-time schools and it was a good learning lesson for us, and I think they handled it pretty well and I am proud of that.”
Bucknam compared this race to a quiz, but taking on the Gans Creek Classic in Columbia, Missouri, Oct. 1, will be their midterm.
And Langdon is excited to see what his team can do.
“Just looking forward to getting out of town,” he said. “Let’s bond on the bus, let’s bond at the hotel and at meals together and let’s see some CSS and Big-10 competition.”
“They are not gonna back down. We are confident and ready.”
PHOTO: Aidan Thompson (center) was the first Bruin to cross the finish line in the men’s 8K, placing fourth in the individual standings. Belmont University / Sam Simpkins
This article was written by Jessica Mattsson. Mattsson is a student-athlete on Belmont’s track and field team.