Cross Country Sweeps Tulane Invitational

September 14, 2003

Ryan Gallagher, <i>Hullabaloo</i> staff writer

In the first competition of the season, the men's and women's cross country teams produced familiar results with some new faces. Last Friday afternoon, the Green Wave runners toed the starting line at the Levee Oaks Park cross country course in New Orleans in search of promising performances to kick off the fall season. Both the men and women's teams came away with passing marks.

In the meet's first race, the Tulane women's squad claimed its third consecutive Tulane Invitational championship. Led by senior Eva Lustigova, who won her second individual title in three years, the Wave scored a near-perfect 19 points en route to victory. Lustigova flew through the two-mile course in 11:38, taking the lead from the starting gun, never relinquishing her hold as the front-runner.

Tulane freshman Bessie Hatch followed Lustigova, claiming the runner-up spot with a time of 11:51. Lustigova and Hatch ran alongside one another for much of the way, with Lustigova relying on her late-race strength to pull away from her teammate for the individual victory. Head Coach Heather Van Norman was pleased with the early season effort of her top two runners.

"Eva is healthy and trained a lot this summer and she was ready to go," Van Norman said. "Bessie also had a great race and we think that will be a sign of good things to come from her."

Sophomore Lisa Green finished in third place, running a 5:56 first mile and an overall time of 12:04. Senior Mandy Hopper claimed fifth place, while freshman Erin Colligan rounded out the scoring as she finished in eighth place with a time of 12:29. Conference rival Southern Miss ran as the runners-up, tallying 38 points.

LSU was third with 100 points. University of Louisiana-Lafayette (115), Southeastern Louisiana (116) and Nicholls State (190) rounded out the top five scoring teams. Xavier narrowly edged out Loyola 199-200. After the women's dominating performance, the Tulane men runners were not to be outdone. Led by junior Philip Aagaard, an Arkansas transfer who began his collegiate career at Tulane in 2001, the Green Wave tallied 26 points on its way to claiming the team title.

Aagaard's effort of 15:49 over the three-mile course earned him C-USA Runner of the Week honors. Aagaard finished second overall, behind Louisiana Tech's Carlos Arrizon, who crossed the finish line in first place at 15:44. Arrizon took control early and never faced a serious threat during the race. Aagaard was aided by teammate Kevin Martes, a freshman from South Easton, Mass. In his debut in the olive and blue singlet, Martes raced to a fourth place finish of 15:53.

Aagaard and Martes ran side-by-side for much of the way. Heading into the race's final mile, Martes briefly took over the second place position. However, Aagaard supplied an intense finishing kick to hold off both Martes and Southeastern's Joey Valure, who rallied with a strong kick of his own with less than one mile to go, moving from seventh place to cross the line in third. Senior Ryan Gallagher claimed seventh place with a time of 16:04, while freshman Tyler Chapman crossed the finish in 11th place at 16:13.

Luke Hooper ran as the Wave's fifth man, finishing in 16:14 at 12th place. According to Martes, the Wave executed just as they had planned in the days leading to the race. "We wanted to just relax during the first mile and start picking off people from there," Martes said. "We knew that it was the first race of the year so people would get excited and go out hard early. But our plan was to relax and pick off the other runners during the middle and end of the race."

Running as a pack, the Wave made it difficult for any other teams to break up the team's low scoring. LSU ran a distant second with 57 points, while Louisiana Tech finished third with a total of 74 team points. SLU finished fourth, with University of Louisiana-Lafayette (123) and Xavier University (136) rounding out the scoring. The Green Wave cross country teams begin the season looking to improve on a disappointing finish to last season's competitions.

The men, who finished ranked second to last at the C-USA championships, return three runners in Gallagher, Hooper and junior Will Landry. The strength of the team will rely on its ability to run as a pack. If the Tulane Invitational serves as any indication, in which the men's top five scorers all finished within 25 seconds of each other, the men should improve drastically upon last season's finish.

The women, who finished similarly at last season's conference meet, bring back a strong core of five runners, adding a strong mix of freshmen who will contribute immediately. Barring injury, the Green Wave women's cross country team should be in the fold at the conference championships. First year coach Mike Corn directs the distance events after 16 years of coaching in the high school ranks. The spoils of Corn's leadership are paying early dividends, as evidenced by both team's early season victories.

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