Men’s and women’s XC place top 10 in the ACC

Senior McKenna Croft races in the Mountain Dew Invitational earlier this year. The race was in Gainesville, Florida which is the same course the Jackets will compete at for NCAA Regionals. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

Tech cross country has been riding a series of impressive finishes all year in preparation for the ACC Championship race. Circled on the calendar all season, the day of the ACC Championships came, and the Jackets traveled to Tallahassee, Florida on Friday, Oct. 27 in hopes of improving from last year’s men’s and women’s 10th and 11th place respective finishes.

The day started with the men’s 8k race at 8:40 a.m. where junior John Higinbotham led the charge for the Jackets. Higinbotham crossed the halfway mark tied with Pittsburgh junior Peyton Geehrer at 50th with a time of 11:50, holding a pace of 4:45 per mile. Just five seconds behind was senior Devin Wade in 72nd place, holding a pace of 4:47. However, to have a shot at a top 10 team placement, the Jackets would need runners to move up before the finish and they did just that.

The Jackets top five runners were able to post a solid scoring as Higinbotham kept his first place mark on the team with a finishing time of 24:12 in 46th place. Sophomore Joey Sandel worked his way past Wade with an excellent second half race and came in just three seconds after Higinbotham with a 24:15 mark at 51st place. Wade was just six seconds behind Sandel with a 24:21 time at 58th. The last two to score for Tech were graduate Zach Jaeger and senior Myles Collins with finishes at 24:29 and 24:43 respectively. With the top five placing 46th, 51st, 58th, 65th and 82nd, the men’s team scored 280 with an average finish time of 24:24 and a spread of 30 seconds between runners. The 280 points were enough to earn a 10th place team finish for the Jackets, just three points behind Pittsburgh in ninth.

Following the men’s top ten placement, the women began their 6k race at 9:30 a.m. with junior Mary Brady leading the charge. Brady finished with the best placement of the day for either team, coming in at 35th with a time of 20:48. Brady impressively passed eight runners in the last two kilometers of the race and held a 5:34 mile pace. 14 seconds later, graduate Grace Driskill came through the finish chute at 21:02

in 49th, holding a 5:38 mile pace throughout the race. The Jackets’ third and fourth runners came in together as seniors Kate Jortberg and Katy Earwood sprinted in with a pack of other runners at 21:11 and 21:12 respectively, grabbing the 56th and 58th marks. To close off the scoring, senior Kenzie Walls flew in at 21:39 with a 5:48 pace at 86th place in the race.

With many Jackets battling it out with Virginia Tech runners, the placement between the two teams was unsure; however, the Jackets would grab the edge in a three-point triumph over the Hokies, securing a ninth-place team finish with 264 points.

Both Jacket teams secured a top ten finish in the ACC for the first time since the 2019 season when the men and women finished ninth and 10th respectively. Tech impressed at the ACC Championships and looks to continue their successes and solid placements as they move to the NCAA South Region Championships in Gainesville, Florida. Fortunately, the Jackets have already competed in Gainesville this season at the Mountain Dew Invitational where both teams placed in the top three of the competition: the men in second and women in third. Tech will look to muster strong team placements as they prepare for the race on Nov. 10.