The Harding men’s and women’s cross-country teams competed at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival on Saturday, Sept. 30 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The women’s team placed 9th out of 40 non-Division I teams in the tournament, while the men’s team placed 10th out of 45 teams. The event came on the heels of the Rhodes Invite on Sept. 17 at Rhodes College in Memphis, where the women’s team placed 3rd out of 20 teams and the men’s team placed 3rd out of 17 teams.
Harding men’s and women’s cross-country coach Steve Guymon says the teams’ performances Saturday were “disappointing,” despite them having a good season so far.
“We beat a lot of teams, but we just didn’t run our best race,” Guymon said. “We didn’t start out very well, and there were a lot more runners than we’re used to . . . it certainly wasn’t our best race this year.”
Harding junior Lawson Belcher, placed 56th in a field of more than 300 runners and led Harding for the first time in his college career. Belcher said he was pleased with his performance.
“I got a personal record, which was nice, although everybody has good days and bad days for this kind of thing,” Belcher said. “I went to Chile Pepper my freshman year and didn’t do well at all, so it was fun to go back and actually have control of the race.”
Harding senior Amber Webb, who led the women’s team and placed 30th, agrees that both teams could have done better.
“One of our best runners was just returning from an injury, and overall we weren’t at the top of our game,” Webb said. “It’s just tough when you’ve got 500 people right out of the gate, so we got a pretty rough start. It wasn’t our worst, but we’ve done better.”
Guymon says the team needs to correct their shortcomings before they race in the Great American Conference Championships on Saturday, Oct. 22 at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma.
“We have some work to do in the next three weeks, because I don’t think we’re as good as we will be,” Guymon said. “We need to work on the confidence that we’re better than what we ran, and also on our toughness. We run as a pack, but we need our top runner to get out in front a little faster.”
The men’s team is currently ranked just outside the top 25 Division II rankings. Both teams will race Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Ozarks Invite in Clarksville, Arkansas.