OXFORD, Ala. – Cole Payne and Sheaney Marshall led the Huntingdon men's and women's cross country teams in the JSU Struts Season Opener on Saturday.
Payne turned in a time of 20:22 in the men's 5k and Marshall had a time of 14:18 in the women's two-mile race. Payne was 16th in a field of 38 runners and Marshall was 16th in a field of 41.
The Huntingdon men finished fourth out of six teams. Host Jacksonville State was first with 18 points, Alabama State University was second with 42 points, West Georgia was third with 84 points and Huntingdon finished with 106 points. The women did not qualify for the team standings.
JSU's Mickey Sanders won the men's race with a time of 16:21. Behind Payne, Huntingdon's Arius Gilstrap was 23rd with a time of 21:20, Ian Layne was 25th at 22:08, Nate Blackwell was 27th at 23:45 and Drayton Rodgers was 29th at 24:07.
On the women's side, ASU's Paige Rankin won the race with a time of 11:40. Behind Marshall's 16th-place finish, Huntingdon's Brianna McClure was 23rd at 16:22, Kristen Curtis was 24th at 16:47 and Jozlyn Varnedoe was 32nd at 17:58.
All but four of Huntingdon's runners were competing in their first competition for Huntingdon. Two of the runners (Gilstrap and Curtis) were competing in cross country for the first time.
"This was a start for us," first-year Huntingdon cross country coach Ben Raphelson said. "I was particularly pleased with Arius' race. He was a sprinter in high school, so this was six times further than he had ever raced before. I was pleased with the way he competed.
"On the women's side, we were led by a strong effort from Sheaney. We had a fairly conservative plan going in, but she was able to run a solid race and that bodes well for her development this year. She was followed by Brianna and Kristen, who finished close together. Kristen has never been on a cross country or track and field team before, but she is taking to things pretty quickly and ran well.
"We certainly have to get back to work in preparation for the longer 6K and 8K races we have coming up. But the performance of our first-time runners, who were either competing for the first time or competing with Huntingdon for the first time, is a positive we can take away from this weekend."