TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- While the Belmont men's cross country team's top two horses once again galloped out in front Friday, the Bruins flexed their depth in securing a fifth-place finish at Alabama's Crimson Classic meet.
Belmont head cross country coach Jeff Langdon challenged the depth of his men's team this week to lift each other up and pull each other across the finish line in a pack. His Nos. 3-6 racers answered the call by finishing within eight seconds of each other, the first three of those within 3.6 seconds even.
That meant all five point-scorers for the Bruins placed in the top 40 to help Belmont round out its team total score at 138. The race spanned 8K at Harry Pritchett Running Park in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Out in front this week was senior Matt Edwards (Glamorgan, Wales), who hung steady just off the lead group throughout the race to finish 11th at 24.41.7. A few seconds later, sophomore Kaleb McLeod (Soperton, Ga.) crossed the line in 15th at 24:47.9. He was passed by his teammate in the race's final mile.
"Matt looked great. He ran really smart and was running with the right people the whole race before eventually getting ahead of that pack," Langdon said.
The day's highlight was the group that finished about 40 seconds later though. Senior Luke Evans (Columbus, Ohio) was 34th at 25:26.7, sophomore Chase Ballard (Columbus, Ind.) was 38th at 25:28.1 and sophomore Declan McManus (Worcestershire, England) was 40th at 25:30.3.
Sophomore Ben Weisel (Nasvhille, Tenn.) was barely another four second behind McManus, though his finish did not count toward the Bruins' overall score.
"The guys were packed up the whole race. That was huge and important," Langdon said. "Chase kind of pulled that group along until the end. Those guys did really good in finding each other."
Belmont finished just behind fellow NCAA South Region programs Georgia Tech (124) and Auburn (134) in the team competition. The race featured 26 teams.
Middle Tennessee State, the top-ranked team in the South Region in the most recent coaches' poll, tied with Alabama for the team championship with 110 points. Jacob Choge of MTSU was the top individual placer at 23:22.3, but Alabama finished 2-3-4 right behind him.
The OVC Championships are next on the slate on Oct. 28, a meet hosted by Eastern Illinois at Charleston, Ill. The South Regional is then back on this same course in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 10.
11. Matt Edwards, sr., 24:41.7
15. Kaleb McLeod, sr., 24:47.9
34. Luke Evans, sr., 25:26.7
38. Chase Ballard, so., 25:28.1
40. Declan McManus, so., 25:30.3
47. Ben Weisel, so., 25:34.4
73. Matt Blivin, sr., 26:04.6
89. Kaden Eaton, jr., 26:11.7
104. Anthony Didion, sr., 26:22.4
107. Daniel White, fr., 26:25.2