Cross CountrySports

Dellinger Invitational proves a successful tune-up for Oregon cross country

With some of the best runners on both the women’s and men’s side sitting out to rest for more important happenings later in the school year, the Oregon cross country team put on an impressive show at the Bill Dellinger Invitational this weekend. The event, which took place at Springfield Country Club on Saturday, marked Oregon’s lone home meet this season.

The women of Oregon dusted their competition and won in a landslide, finishing with a total of 26 points. Wisconsin grabbed second place with 73 points, followed by the University of Portland with 95. Sarah Penney paced the Ducks with a time of 16:46.97, finishing in third place behind Hannah Kiser of Idaho and Aliphine Tuliamuk of Wichita State.

However, Penney was not alone as she blazed the 5,000-meter field. The redshirt sophomore crossed the finish line with a contingent of teammates close in tow as No. 17 Oregon dominated the top 10 with a three-four-five-six finish. Becca Friday, Lanie Thompson and Claire Michel ended the race within five seconds of Penney to cap an impressive effort for the Ducks’ top quartet.

Megan Patrignelli finished in eighth place for Oregon, followed by Bronwyn Crossman in 12th place, Taylor Wallace in 14th place and Molly Grabill in 16th place.

The Oregon women attacked in a group effort throughout, a move that Thompson indicated was likely before the race. Even without two-time NCAA champion Jordan Hasay and six-time All-American Anne Kesselring, the team looked imposing in its first competition since a Sept. 10 dual meet against Gonzaga.

“We won the team title by running in a pack,” Thompson said. “We are a solid pack. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, we are definitely still focusing. Running in a pack makes the race seem easier.”

The No. 8 Oregon men were also running without their top competitors. Highly touted true freshman Lukas Verzbicas was held out of the meet along with nine-time All-American Luke Puskedra. The Ducks trotted out a lineup composed mostly of underclassmen but still managed to finish relatively close to No. 2 Wisconsin. The Badgers claimed first place with a team total of 24 points while Oregon finished second with 59, followed by Southern Utah with 104 and Idaho with 110.

Oregon associate athletic director Vin Lananna made it clear after the meet that the national and conference meets in both cross country and track and field — along with the Olympic trials — sit atop the program’s list of priorities.

“We’re just being cautious, making sure we don’t open up any of the athletes too early,” Lananna said. “This is a big, important year. And the whole year is important, so we just want to make sure we don’t do anything that jeopardizes our ability to perform.”

Cameron Levins of Southern Utah paced the men’s 8,000-meter contest with a time of 23:10.51. Reed Connor of Wisconsin placed second with a time of 23:18.88, leading a pack of five Badger runners in the top seven. Parker Stinson led the Oregon men, finishing in 23:23.85 to place eighth.

“It’s early in the season. Honestly, the Ducks aren’t racing everyone today, and they don’t need to,” Connor said. “This is getting us ready for the new season and both teams know that. That’s the way it was last year, that’s the way it is this year. This is just a starting point for both teams, and we’ll see where we end up in November.”

Freshmen Chad Noelle and Jeramy Elkaim ran unattached for Oregon and ended in 12th and 13th, respectively. They were followed by Ryan Pickering and Bryce Burgess, who finished in close succession to nab 15th and 16th for the Ducks. Redshirt sophomore Ben DeJarnette, who won Oregon’s first meet of the season against Gonzaga, got off to a strong start for the Ducks but appeared to suffer a leg injury in the final hundred meters of the race and finished 34th.

The story of the day for the Duck men was Stinson, who made an impressive showing in his first cross country meet since competing at the NCAA Championships in 2010 as a freshman. After pacing the team in its first meet of 2011, the sophomore expressed optimism that this may just be the start of many great thing to come from some of Oregon’s less-decorated performers.

“Maybe it won’t just be the Luke and Lukas show,” Stinson said, referring to the team’s top duo of Puskedra and Verzbicas. “Maybe some of us other guys can get up there and help out too.”

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