Pack Mentality

Kortney Schardt, second from right, was the Belmont women's cross country team's top finisher at the Belmont Opener in 12th place on Saturday.
Kortney Schardt, second from right, was the Belmont women's cross country team's top finisher at the Belmont Opener in 12th place on Saturday.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Running the season's first meet on a rain-soaked course, Belmont head cross country coach Jeff Langdon tasked his team with holding a deliberate and conservative pace on Saturday.

Run as a group, hold each other accountable and push the pack to the finish line.

The Bruin women's team finished their home Belmont Opener meet third among five Division I teams with five placers in the top 16 at Percy Warner Park. More important to Coach Langdon was that all five clocked in within barely seven seconds of each other.

"The guys and girls both did pretty much exactly what we wanted," Langdon said. "We wanted to go out conservative, run as a pack. We executed well, didn't really care about results."

Tops in the pack was sophomore Kortney Schardt, who crossed the 5K race's finish line in 18:41.85 for 12th place. Kiera Weems (18:45.51) was next in 13th with Claire Cheeseman (18:45.62) less than a second behind in 14th. Lauren Denemark (18:48.33) took 15th and Ali White (18:49.04) 16th, while Sierra Lax (19:06.89) was 19th and Hallie Hausman (19:14.18) was 21st.

"It was so nice to have everyone around you, to look around and see Belmont on all those jerseys around you," Schardt said, describing the finish line.

Belmont totaled 70 team points, well off the pace of first-place Vanderbilt. The Commodores had six runners in the top eight to finish with 21 points while second-place Lipscomb had 43. Lipscomb's Courtney Brenner was the meet champ in a time of 17:40.61.

That hardly mattered to the Bruins, who wanted to focus on their own runners in the first live action of the fall campaign. That was especially true after heavy rains doused the area leading up to race day.

Racers dealt with slippery conditions that included puddling on some sections of the course.

"Since it was our opener and we didn't know how the course was going to be, we decided to take the first two miles at a threshold pace, around a 6-mile-per-minute pace," Schardt explained. "We treated it like a workout, we packed up and it was a good learning opportunity today."

The Bruins will look to build on Saturday's results in two weeks at the Commodore Opener. The Vanderbilt-hosted meet is back at Percy Warner Park on Sept. 16.

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