The Ole Miss cross country team showed its strength on its home course with a sweep of the Rebel Invite on Friday. Hosting seven other schools, including Southern Miss, Jackson State, Rust College and William Carey, the Rebels dominated. For the second year in a row, the team ran itself to victory in both the women’s 5K and men’s 6K at FNC Park in Oxford.
Following a strong third-place finish in the Memphis opener early in the month, the 16th-ranked Ole Miss women’s team was able to improve by finishing on top collectively. Individually, former Rebel Maddie McHugh took the top time of 17:05.1; however, she was running unattached, which means she ran with no affiliation. Other true Rebels Shelby Brown and Hannah Christen rounded out the top three of the 5K, and Ole Miss claimed the top five individual spots.
Head coach Ryan Vanhoy, now in his fifth season at the helm, was confident in and pleased with how the teams competed Friday.
“I thought our women ran very well,” Vanhoy said. “They executed our plan to a T. The plan was to get five or six girls out together, start hard, kind of settle in and then finish hard.”
Eight runners finished in under 18 minutes, and the women ran for an average time of 17:07, which is on pace with the top runners, nationally.
On the men’s side of things, the No. 20 Rebels also improved between their meet at Memphis and the one Friday night. The Rebel men finished fourth in the opening meet, and although six Rebels ran the race unattached from the team for various reasons, the men in red and blue came in first in the 6K at home. They also turned in three of the top four finishing times.
“Our plan was to start hard for the first thousand, just to get used to starting fast, then settle in, then finish hard when we hit the last thousand on the field,” Vanhoy said. “We ran a lot faster than we did on the same course last year. We need to get numbers closer to four, five, six and seven, closer to the guys who were upfront for us tonight.”
Senior Derek Gutierrez crossed the line first with a time of 17:39.3. Not far behind with a time of 17:36.9 was fellow senior Ryan Manahan, who ran at Georgetown for his first two years of college.
The men ran an average of 17:57, with 11 runners finishing in under 19 minutes, though that figure includes those who ran unattached.
The Rebels will be off for two weeks before they travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the Cowboy Jamboree next Saturday.