Paced by a runner-up individual finish from junior Michael Spooner, the Tennessee men’s cross country team captured first-place honors Saturday morning at the Colonial Inter-Regional Challenge at Eastern State Hospital.
Spooner, a Springfield native who returned to his home state to make his season debut, covered the challenging 8,000-meter course in 25 minutes, 37.8 seconds to lead the Vols past 15th-ranked William & Mary and six other schools. UT, which tallied a low score of 41 points despite competing without last week’s top runner Peter Sigilai, finished ahead of its second ranked opponent in as many weeks. As the runner-up at the Crimson Classic last Friday, the Big Orange had placed ahead of No. 13 Auburn.
Host William & Mary, running without its full lineup, accumulated 48 points to settle for second. American was third with 67, followed by Norfolk State (75), Hampton (163), Howard (186), Longwood (191) and Christopher Newport (211).
Norfolk State’s Philemon Kimutai captured the individual title in 25:29.0, holding off Spooner by 8.8 seconds. In addition to Spooner, who is the Vols’ top returnee after earning All-SEC and All-South Region accolades a year ago, Tennessee got a top-10 finish from Steve Fassino. The junior from Signal Mountain, Tenn., ran the course in 26:07.2, grabbing eighth-place overall and factoring as the sixth scorer out of 87 runners on an overcast, but dry, early fall day.
The Big Orange’s other three scorers crossed the line within almost a second of one another, giving UT another impressive one-through five spread of 38 seconds after it was 29 a week ago. Contributing toward that end were sophomore Chris Bodary, who was 12th (10th scoring) in 26:14.6, senior Mike Brodsky, who was 13th (11th) in 26:15.9, and freshman Leoule Degfae, who matched Brodsky in 13th place (12th) at 26:15.9.
Tennessee had four other top-35 finishers among its 12-man contingent. That quartet of local runners included senior Chris Kane of Knoxville (Karns), who placed 20th in 26:34.3, junior David Clabo of Gatlinburg (Gatlinburg-Pittman), who came in 26th at 26:50.3, junior Stuart Chandler of Knoxville (West), who ran 32nd in 27:22.0, and redshirt freshman Spenser Tipton of Maryville (Maryville), who crossed the line 35th in 27:24.3.
“We ran a solid second competition against a very strong William & Mary team on a very tough course,” Vols’ coach George Watts said. “Although William & Mary held out some of its top guys, it still was nice to get a win against a ranked opponent.
“Mike Spooner did a good job leading the team and was in the hunt for the individual win until the very end. I was pleased with our result, considering how hard we worked in practice this week. We look forward to another strong performance next week in Louisville.”
Tennessee will be back in action next weekend, competing in the Greater Louisville Classic on Saturday. Race time is 9:30 a.m. at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park.