by Benny Benton
CONCORD, N.C. – Junior Austin Edmonds narrowly missed earning all-conference acclaim in men's cross country at the 2013 Conference Carolinas Championships at Frank Liske Park on Friday after finishing 17th in a field of 82 runners with a personal record 8K time of 26:34.42.
Edmonds' time was two seconds better than his previous best of 26:36.4, set just two weeks ago at the Royal Cross Country Challenge in Charlotte. It was a full minute and a half better than his showing on the same course in the 2012 league championships, when he placed 28th.
The top 15 receive all-conference designation, and Edmonds missed by two spots and just over eight seconds from reaching that distinction.
Despite Edmonds' strong showing, the Bulldogs finished last among nine teams in a very competitive field that included nationally-ranked Mount Olive College and regionally-ranked King University.
Mount Olive, ranked No. 1 in the Southeast Region and No. 12 nationally, won the event for the second straight year after all of its scoring runners finished in the top 10, led by sophomore Dylan Lafond, who recorded a blazing time of 24:15.67, 40 seconds faster than his closest competitor.
King, ranked No. 3 in the Southeast Region, finished runner-up for a second straight year. The Tornado placed all five of their scoring runners in the top 16, but their 53 points trailed far behind the 29 of Mount Olive.
North Greenville University was third with 114 points, followed by Pfeiffer University in fourth with 122 and Belmont Abbey College in fifth with 132. Rounding out the scoring in positions six through nine were Limestone College (154), Lees-McRae College (174), Erskine College (210) and Barton (225).
After Edmonds, the three best finishes for the Bulldogs were all turned in by freshmen. Luar Mercado Lopez lowered his 8K personal best by 34 seconds, turning in a time of 28:41.39 that placed him 49th. Adam Pope also improved upon his best 8K time of the year by roughly a minute with an effort of 29:19.09, good for 59th place. The third freshman was Yacine Gharbi, who posted a time of 29:52.16, which was 66th best in the field.
The final scoring runner was senior John Aranda, who recorded a time of 29:54.85. The effort was more than two minutes better than his only other 8K finish of the year, but only netted him 68th place.
The only other Barton runner besides Edmonds who also competed in the 2012 event was Daniel Strutton. The junior improved his time from 30:25 a year ago to a season-best 29:59 this year on the same course, but he was 49th last year and just 69th this time even with a better result because of the depth of the field.
Rounding out the competitors for Barton were freshman Robert Amerson (30:39.27, 75th) and senior Anthony Nelson (31:13.73, 77th), who both set personal 8K records in the meet.
Barton will return to action on Nov. 9, when it competes in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional at McAlpine Creek Park in Charlotte. The race, which will determine the individual and team qualifiers for the NCAA Division II National Championship, will be 10K in length for the men. Barton finished 21st among 28 squads in the Royal Cross Country Challenge, an 8K race on the same location two weeks ago.
Conference Carolinas Championship (Men's 8K)
225 – Barton (9th/9)
26:34.42 – Austin Edmonds (17th/82)
28:41.39 – Luar Lopez (49th)
29:19.09 – Adam Pope (59th)
29:52.16 – Yacine Gharbi (66th)
29:54.85 – John Aranda (68th)
29:59.07 – Daniel Strutton (69th)
30:39.27 – Robert Amerson (75th)
31:13.73 – Anthony Nelson (77th)