MADISON, Wis. - - Saturday was one of the biggest stages in the history of Belmont University men's cross country.
But frigid temperatures and household names could do little to freeze Bruin momentum heading into conference and NCAA regionals.
The Bruins finished an impressive 17th in a field of 35 of the nation's best teams at Wisconsin Pre-Nationals; another positive step forward for a porogram gaining national cachet.
With wet conditions and temperatures in the mid 40s, the Zimmer Championship course ran roughly 30 seconds slower than anticipated.
Nevertheless, the Bruins placed in keeping with advanced billing, considering a field boasting five top 10 teams and 15 of the nation's top 40 programs.
Belmont was right behind nationally-ranked NC State and Big 10 stronghold Iowa, and finished ahead of Georgia, Dayton, California, Kansas, Arizona State, and Duke, who entered the race receiving national poll votes.
"Place-wise, we didn't know what to expect from this race," said head coach Jeff Langdon. "We were ranked around 17th going in, and that's where we ended up. We were hoping as a team to finish a little bit higher, but I think in many ways it was a good experience for this crew."
"We just wanted to prove ourselves as a team," said freshman Jacob McLead. "I think we did a pretty good job of that, but at the same time, we still have a lot to work on heading into the OVC Championships."
Jacob McLeod led the way for the Bruins for the fourth straight meet. He finished 28th overall with a time of 24:28.5. McLeod was the fourth-fastest freshman in the Cardinal 8K.
Matt Edwards was second for Belmont, finishing No. 119 with a time of 25:15.5.
The mood and spirit of the team was high following the race, and regional standing should remain quality heading into the OVC Championship at Southeast Missouri in two weeks time.
28. Jacob McLeod, Fr., 24:28.5
119. Matt Edwards, Sr., 25:15.5
124. Aidan Thompson, Jr., 25:18.2
134. Declan McManus, Jr., 25:22.8
135. Kaleb McLeod, Jr., 25:22.9
199. Taylor Vroon, Fr., 26:01.9
228. Chase Ballard, Jr., 26:51.0