BLUFFTON, OH - Coming into 2017, the OCU Cross Country Program had hopes of exceeding expectations and competing and the highest level early in the season. As the Trailblazers ran in the Back to the Nature Preserve on Friday, they proved that they were ready to meet that expectation. With both the men and women competing well and placing high on the leaderboard, OCU would finish feeling accomplished and ready to continue improving. 

On the men's side, Junior Kyle Benecke (14th) would lead the way with a time of 19:30.6. On Benecke's heels would be Sophmore leader Canaan Gardner (16th), who would run a 19:40.2 to finish just shy of the Top 15. Rounding out the rest of the Trailblazers lineup would be Sophomore Hayden Mink (31st - 20:32.5) , Freshman Joel Rodgers (32nd - 20:34.7) , and Freshman Noah Davis (42nd - 21:07.1). Totaling a time of 1:41:26, the men would finish in fifth place overall.


For the women, returning NAIA All-American Ariel Young would set the pace for the Lady Trailblazers with a time of 18:15.5. Not only would this be the team's best time, but it would also be the winning time for the entire race. Following Young would be Junior Raven Arellano (18:54.1) and Sophomore Alyssa Turrentine (19:31.5), who would finish in 6th and 7th place respectively. Sophomore Madigan Marshall (30th - 21:24.9) and Freshman Lauryn Rutan (42nd - 22:23.9) would round out the Lady Trailblazer starting five. Overall, the women would finish with a time of 1:40:30, which was good enough to finish in third place out of 10 competing teams.


"This is by far the best debut we have ever had," said Head Coach Eric Hamner. "The girls team ran eight of their twelve runners to place third without even being at full strength. Both teams ran well throughout the entire race to showcase the work put in during preseason camp. This is a great place for us to be in for our first race of the year and I am excited to see the great things this team can accomplish."


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