Tiger cross country team runs fast times at the competitive Chile Pepper Festival in Arkansas

The men’s and women’s cross country teams competed Oct. 4 at the Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Ark.

The women placed ninth and the men placed 16th out of 27 teams in the event, which consisted mostly of teams outside of Division III competition.

“The biggest thing for both teams was seeing how we would do in much more ideal conditions for racing,” said head coach Emily Daum. “The times definitely reflected that compared to our past meets, which was really exciting.”

The men’s 8k race was the first of the season for the Tigers, and the first ever for many of the first-year runners. Junior Taylor Piske finished first for the Tigers with a time of 26:15.5 minutes. He placed 140th out of 429 runners, and his current times put him ahead of his pace at this time last season.

Sophomore Austin Brown also had a strong race finishing with a time of 26:57.7, which is a two-minute improvement on his past personal best. First year Michael Erickson and sophomore Tristan Ashton finished with times of 27:38.8 and 27:48.0, respectively.

“It was a lot greater competition, and that was good for us because it taught us how to handle a bigger race. It makes those smaller races a lot easier,” said Brown.

The top finisher on the women’s side was senior Michelle Oberndorf in the 5k with a time of 18:43.1 minutes, which was good enough to place her 135th among 375 competitors. She was just four seconds off her personal best in the race.

Other top finishers for the women were first years Melissa Whitman with a time of 18:45.8 and Lexi Phelps with a time of 19:02.2. Overall, the women had nine runners finish the race in under 20:00, and eight runners earned times that ranked in the top 20 in school history.

“For it being such a big race, I think we did really well,” said junior Marianna Sigala. “Every part of the race you had someone to pass”¦Even at the finish line there were these big packs and you were just passing as many people as you could before you got to the finish.”

The size of the field was definitely a factor for the runners this week. It was much larger than any of the races the team has run this season. According to Daum, it is closer to the number of people that the Tigers would run against at Nationals.

“It was really going to be a good experience for them being on the starting line, and being in a race where there are constantly people around you, and knowing how to work your way through crowds of runners,” Daum said.

The men and women will race again at 8 a.m. tomorrow at the University of the Incarnate Word Invitational in Live Oak, Texas. The men will run an 8k, and the women will run their first 6k of the season.