LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- The cross country teams both experienced success in head coach Katie Stanford's second season. The men had three top-five finishes, while the women had three wins and five top-five finishes. The women won both the GSAC Pre-Conference and Conference meets, although with Covenant's transition to Division III, the Lady Scots were ineligible for the official conference title.
Covenant also hosted a meet for the first time in recent memory. The Scots and Lady Scots competed against Maryville College on August 31 in the Scots Opener on Lookout Mountain. Both the men's and women's teams came out in first place in front of a boisterous home crowd.
The women were led all year by sophomore Beth Burgess who set personal bests in distances of 2-mile, 5k, and 6k this season. Burgess finished in the top 10 five times and placed 16th competing with several NCAA Division I runners at the UTC PowerAde Invitational.
Stanford was pleased with her women's team as a whole as they battled injuries during the second half of the season. "Struggling with injuries during the 2nd half of the season, the girls gutted out one more race [at NCCAA nationals] and I'm proud of them. We ended the season on several positive notes and that is all you can ask for."
The men this season were led by a pair of Stephens. Sophomore Stephen Dillon placed in the top 25 four times and set a new personal best in the 8k at the NCCAA Cross Country National Championships with a time of 28:40.74. Dillon was second in the Scots Opener, 23rd in the UTC PowerAde Invitational where he and the rest of the men's team competed against some Division I talent.
Another sophomore, Stephen Harper, also had four top 25 finishes. Harper placed 24th in the UTC PowerAde Invitational. Harper was third in the Scots Opener and placed 13th in the Maryville College Invitational.
Covenant had several newcomers to the team this season that progressed as the season went on. By the end of the year, sophomore Jake Sikkema and senior Nate Shelden had set a new personal best in the 8k, while sophomore Jack Williams nearly set a personal record in the 8k as well.
"These guys worked really hard this season and I'm glad their hard work paid off and they can finish the season on a high note," added Stanford.
With success experienced this season with young teams, the future looks bright for both cross country programs as Covenant moves into the USA South Conference and full-time NCAA Division III membership next season.
**This is the second in a week-long series recapping the fall sports season at Covenant. Below are links and a schedule to the rest of the season recaps.
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