The Elon University men’s and women’s cross country teams dominated a rainy Saturday morning at the Elon Cross Country Course by sweeping the Elon Invitational.
The four-team meet, which also included North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University and Lenoir-Rhyne University, featured a five-kilometer event for the women and an eight-kilometer race for the men. It was the second home event of the year for Elon, as they competed in a dual meet against the University of North Carolina at Greensboro on Aug. 30.
Elon senior Jenny Gallagher won the women’s individual title with a time of 17:55. She was followed by nine teammates, as the Phoenix swept the entire top 10. With 15 points, the women cruised to the team title.
“I wanted to see a controlled effort for the first half of the race and then run strong the second half of the race,” Elon head coach Nick Polk said. “The girls executed perfectly. They finished between 10 and 30 seconds quicker than they did here two weeks ago.”
For Gallagher, the time was a personal record and the first time she had run a 5K under 18 minutes in her career. Despite the personal success, she echoed her coach’s praise for the team effort.
“I was really proud of myself, but especially my team,” Gallagher said. “We really stuck together for the first half of the race.”
Following Gallagher were junior Elyse Bierut at 17:58 and senior Tereza Novotna at 18:07.
On the men’s side, senior Luis Vargas won with a time of 25:16. Elon men took the first four spots in the race and won the team title with 17 points. Vargas, the first male runner in Elon history to earn NCAA All-Southeast Region honors in 2013, was on a plan from Polk as well.
“Luis ran a very, smart controlled race,” Polk said. “I had him run with a group for the first two miles then took the reins off for the last three.”
With his family from Angier, N.C. in attendance, Vargas finished 57 seconds ahead of senior teammate Ari Rothschild.
“It’s my last race at home,” Vargas said. “I was happy to step out there with the guys. We all worked well together and we kept together as a pack as much as we could.”
Senior Adam Bernstein finished third for Elon with a time of 26:57 and freshman Sam Geha was fourth at 27:12.
A light rain fell on and off throughout the meet. While the precipitation made conditions uncomfortable for spectators, the runners thrived.
“I like racing in the rain because it’s a lot cooler,” Gallagher said. “There’s not as much humidity. It was a perfect day to run.”
Vargas agreed, saying it was nice “to not have the sun out.”
The Phoenix will return to action at the North Carolina State University Adidas Challenge in Cary on Friday, Sep. 19.