Men's Cross Country wins 15th straight titleOctober 22, 2011
Gragg named Runn of the Year, SAC Scholar-Athlete; Owens named Coach of the Year
MORRISTOWN, Tenn. – For an unprecedented 15th-consecutive season, Mars Hill has captured the Food Lion SAC Men’s Cross Country Championship. The Lions won the 2011 title behind three top-10 individual performances, edging runner-up Anderson by just two points.
Mars Hill was led by individual champion and SAC Runner of the Year Justin Gragg, whose time of 26:31.2 was more than 10 seconds faster than Catawba’s Christian Crifasi, who finished second.
"I knew that the hills on the second half of the race were going to play in my favor, so I just positioned myself to make a move on the last big hill and finished strong," Gragg said. "As leader of the team, the overall title was the real goal. It feels great being apart of history of winning 15 straight."
MHC also got a first-team All-Conference performance from junior Eric Blackburn, the No. 5 individual finisher on Saturday.
Anderson’s second-place team finish was speared by sophomore Parks Edwards, who turned in the race’s fourth-best individual time. AU was followed in the team standings by Wingate, led by Steve Hammond’s first-team All-Conference time of 27:06.2.
Lenoir-Rhyne placed fourth as a team behind Mike York, whose No. 3 individual finish earned him Freshman of the Year honors. York was the only freshman to finish among the Championship’s top 15 individual times.
Brevard was fifth in the team results, followed by Lincoln Memorial, Newberry and Catawba.
Carson-Newman at No. 9 and Tusculum at No. 10 rounded out the team standings.
Completing the SAC All-Conference first team – which recognizes the Championships’ top-seven individual runners – was LMU’s Derrick Lindsay, who placed sixth.
Saturday’s awards ceremony also included the presentation of the 2011 SAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, which went to Mars Hill’s Kit Powell.
"What we've cultivated in my time here is a culture of excellence that breeds success for the Mars Hill College community," Powell said. "For a single team to take their 15th consecutive title, the Runner of the Year, Coach of the Year, and SAC-Scholar Athlete awards speaks highly of athletic leadership and academic prowess at not only the student level but also institutionally. I'm glad I'm surrounded by passionate people."
The Lions took home SAC Coach of the Year hardware as well, as head coach Mike Owens was recognized following his team’s conference title. "It's been a very exciting season so far," Owens commented. "Both squads are very young this year, and it was especially satisfying to see them perform well in a pressure situation. I could not be more proud of them all."
2011 Food Lion SAC Championship Team Results
1. Mars Hill
6. Lincoln Memorial
SAC Runner of the Year: Justin Gragg, Mars Hill
SAC Freshman of the Year: Mike York, Lenoir-Rhyne
SAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Kit Powell, Mars Hill
SAC Coach of the Year: Mike Owens, Mars Hill
All-Conference First Team
Justin Gragg, Mars Hill
Christian Crifasi, Catawba
Mike York, Lenoir-Rhyne
Parks Edwards, Anderson
Eric Blackburn, Mars Hill
Derrick Lindsay, Lincoln Memorial
Steve Hammond, Wingate
All-Conference Second Team
Alex Pena, Anderson
Deniz Hay, Anderson
Kit Powell, Mars Hill
Josh Mower, Brevard
Kyle Koby, Anderson
Biniam Ateka Belachew, Wingate
Josh Greenfield-Tuttle, Mars Hill
Mike York, Lenoir-Rhyne
Reece Riden, Mars Hill
Bart Merkel, Brevard
Justin Golay, Newberry
David Cooper, Tusculum