by David T.Mann
ALBANY – The Cavaliers swept the Darton State College Invitational cross country race today, taking a perfect score in their season opener on the Cavalier Trails at Darton.
Freshman Austin Stewart, of Smithville, won the collegiate 8K in 27:55 – nearly a full minute ahead of the field.
Cavaliers David Thornton ( 28:42), Victor Chicas (29:00), Ean Crawford (29:09) and Jordan Richey (29:15) finished 2nd-5th, respectively, to clinch Darton’s perfect score of 15 points.
But the Cavaliers kept coming as Jelani Omari (29:37) and Jose Batista (29:51) placed 6th and 7th, respectively.
“They all broke 30 minutes; that’s good for our first race,” Darton head cross country coach Bruce Skiles said.
He’s confident they will get faster as the season progresses, as his top three runners today – all freshmen – ran low 16s during high school.
“They’re just not in shape to handle five miles,” Skiles said. “It’s a big leap from the 5K.”
Point University finished second with 59 points, South Georgia State College finished third with 82 and Central Georgia Tech – a newcomer to Region 17 cross country – finished fourth with 104 points.
In the women’s collegiate 5K, sophomore Elena Oslund finished 3rd overall with a total time of 21:06 to lead the Lady Cavaliers to a second place finish.
“She’s pretty strong,” Skiles said. “I think she can get down into the low 19s, 19:30, somewhere in there with the right weather and the right course.”
Darton scored 36 points to place behind Point University’s 21 points. South Georgia finished 3rd with 97 points while Central Georgia Tech finished last with 122 points.
Lady Cavaliers Amber Brasswell (22:25), Kaitlyn Winter (22:40) and Jaishelle Thomas (22:45) finished 6th, 7th and 8th, respectively. Victoria Parra ( 23:55) finished 12th overall to complete Darton’s score.
Darton looked like a pair of fifth consecutive conference championships is well within reach. The program will travel to Americus for the Georgia Southwestern State Invitational, Saturday. The women’s race begins at 8:30 a.m. followed by the men’s 8K at 9 a.m.
The Cavaliers will race again at Darton on Sept. 28, and plan on hosting the Georgia Collegiate Athletics Association Championship on Oct. 26.