BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Columbia men's cross country team ran an outstanding race on Friday, taking third place in a 45-team field in the 8K Men's Gold race of the 2011 Paul Short Run Presented by Brooks.
The Lions tallied 156 team points, finishing only behind No. 4 Oklahoma (first place, 34 points) and No. 22 Georgetown (second place, 143 points). Columbia also had the shortest team spread of all 45 teams at just 17 seconds between its top five runners.
"Overall, I was very pleased," Columbia Director of Cross Country and Track & Field Willy Wood said. "We came in expecting to do well and that was certainly our hope. But two beat four teams that were ranked in the top 20 in the nation, that's certainly a great indication of what's hopefully going to be a very good season for us. As a team overall, we ran absolutely phenomenally. The guys were very pleased with it, our coaching staff was very pleased with it and I think it's a great start for us."
The Lions finished ahead of four teams ranked in the USTFCCA NCAA Division I National Cross Country Coaches' Poll, including No. 15 Syracuse (fifth, 229 points), No. 17 Providence (sixth, 247 points), No. 18 Villanova (fourth, 177 points) and No. 19 Virginia (10th, 298 points).
Junior Leighton Spencer ran a terrific race, leading the Lions with a 24th-place finish with a time of 24:49. Junior Mike Murphy finished 27th at 24:52 and senior Kyle Merber was 29th with a time of 24:56. Senior Justin Heck (34th, 24:59), sophomore Nico Composto (42nd, 25:05), sophomore Jake Sienko (47th, 25:10) and junior Pat DeSabatto (52nd, 25:13) rounded out the Lions top seven.
The Columbia men's cross country team will next race in the Metropolitan Championships on Oct. 7 in Van Cortlandt Park.