Tennessee's men's cross country team didn't get the win Friday in its season-opening outing at the 8K Tennessee/adidas Invitational, but the youthful squad did put together a competitive effort against powerhouse N.C. State.
The Wolfpack (21 points), the first-ranked team in the Southeast Region and a good bet to be included in the top 20 of the upcoming first edition of the national rankings, came to Maryville and bettered UT (35 points), the preseason third-ranked team in the South Region.
In a rare dual meet for the Vols, Tennessee's scoring pack placed runners fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and 12th.
Dusty Miller, a true freshman who was running for Knoxville's West High this time last year, led the Tennessee contingent in his first collegiate race. Miller took fifth in 26:14.17 to open his career on a promising note. Running sixth throughout most of the middle of the race, Miller found enough zip in his legs to nab the fifth spot to close the effort.
"I was really happy with it," Miller said. "A lot of friends and family were here. Being a local guy, I wanted to prove something."
Junior co-captain Matthew Lapp arrived next for the Vols. Lapp broke the tape in 26:21.87 to secure sixth and help Tennessee in the scoring column. Lapp climbed into the mix by the three-mile mark and stayed consistent throughout the end of the race.
"I thought we ran competitively as a team," UT coach George Watts said. "I'm especially proud of Dusty (Miller) and Matthew (Lapp). It's very impressive that Dusty as a freshman led what I think will be a good team."
Lapp said he was pleased that the Vols were able to dual with a national power like the Wolfpack.
"It's great to have N.C. State here," Lapp said. "That's the level we want to be. It's good to be in a dual meet. You know exactly where you're at. You just get out there and race the competition."
He also said the meet was a nice preparation for later in the season.
"It's early September. This year we're going for November," Lapp said. "Starting with the SECs (Nov. 3), that's the championship season."