The general consensus around cross country is that it is an individual sport. But if you asked Elon University sophomore Sam Geha about that stereotype, he would tell you something much different.

“As much as this is an individual sport as this is, it’s really effective for the group to run as a team and help each other all the way,” Geha said.

The Phoenix used the “pack running” style along with stout individual performances from Geha and senior Elyse Bierut to capture both the men’s and women’s crowns on its home course at the Elon Invitational on Sept. 12.

“We just hoped to do well today and doing so in front of all the fans, faculty and staff was incredible,” Geha said.

The outcome of the event, which featured both men and women’s teams from North Carolina A&T State University, Averett University, Bennett University, William Peace University and Catawba College, was never in question. Individually, Geha was runner-up on the men’s side, posting a time of 26 minutes, 8 seconds. On the women’s side, Bierut trotted across the finish line clocking in a time of 18:13. The rest of her teammates quickly followed her, the last finishing one minute, 51 seconds after her.

“Coming into this, [head coach Nick Polk] told us to work together as much as possible and stick with the Elon pack,” Bierut said. “I wanted to stay with the pack for the majority of the race but by the last half mile I picked it up and gave it everything I had. I think I did well today. I have some things to work on but overall I think I’m in a good spot right now.”

Elon’s Nick Ciolkowski (26:10) and Reed Payne (26:26) finished right after Geha. Brigid Brennan (18:58) and Bridgette Harrell (19:00) were in third and fourth, respectively, on the women’s side.

This pack running style is something Polk implemented upon his arrival a year ago, and something he wants to focus on again. Although he is happy that individuals performed well in the event, Polk still wants the team to perfect this technique.

“It was good to get a win,” he said. “In a meet like this, we had to get together as much as possible and run as a group. We did that for the majority of the race, which is good, but now we have to work on doing it for the whole race. Overall, we were pretty strong and it was a great start for the team.”


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