Staff Writers: Michael Wayne O’Neill and Bode Arigbon
The Wingate cross-country teams took care of business Saturday morning by sweeping the South Atlantic Conference meet and taking home conference title hardware for both genders at Salisbury Community Park.
The men’s team finished with a score of 23 points and placed first overall. The Bulldogs had five runners in the top seven finishers and nine in the top 18 while finishing 31 points ahead of Catawba (54), Anderson (67), Lenoir-Rhyne (131) and Carson-Newman (142) to earn their second consecutive SAC title.
Wingate’s consistent training was a factor in their sweep, and the program benefitted from it. Head coach Pol Domenech, who was named the SAC men’s and women’s cross-country Coach of the Year, said outcomes are different from their process to prepare for races.
“We are big believers that outcomes should never be the reason why we work,” Domenech said. “Outcomes are byproducts of the process. This being said, it’s always good to retain those titles and start the last four weeks of the season with a positive experience.”
Junior Soheil Boufrizi, who won the conference meet individual title with a time of 25 minutes and 22 seconds in the 8,000-kilometer race, led the way for the Wingate men’s team. Seniors Saul Valdez, Brent Surratt, junior Jakob Rettschlag, senior Henning Kunze and sophomore Leo Freeland finished in a pattern of 4-5-6-7-8, respectively.
The No. 10-ranked Wingate women’s team also finished first place at the SAC Conference Meet with 34 points. The Bulldogs, who collected its sixth SAC title, outscored second-place Anderson (53), third-place Catawba (78), Lenoir-Rhyne (81) and Lincoln Memorial (133).
Sophomore Grace Burrell led the way for the women’s team by placing third in the 6,000- kilometer race with a time of 22 minutes and 20 seconds. Juniors Mollie Scott and Brooklyn Pierce finished fourth and fifth respectively, behind Burrell 12 seconds apart from each other.
While Wingate slowly left this meet behind them, more is in sight for the program. The Bulldogs will host the NCAA Division 2 Southeast Regional Meet Saturday, Nov. 19, with the men’s 10K race beginning at 10 a.m. and the women’s 6K race beginning at 11:15 a.m.
Wingate plans to dominate the meet on its pathway, but Domenech knows punching the ticket to compete in the D2 Nationals Meet in Seattle will not be easy.
“Making it to Seattle is the goal,” Domenech said. “We have never been on that course, but both teams did make it to nationals last year (at Saint Leo, Fla.), so we are experienced in regards to what needs to be done. Our men and women are more mature than last year, and we feel
confident that we will be ready.”