Andrew Benford crossing the finish line to victory and leading the Spider Men's Team to the Atlantic 10 Conference Cross Country Championship team title. His time of 24:12 for the 8K set a course record for the Schenley Park venue in Pittsburgh, PA. Six years earlier on the same course John Ciccarelli (UR '06) broke away from the pack to win the Atlantic 10 Cross Country title for the Spiders. (Dan Petty Photo)
You may recall Benford, the 2010 West Virginia Track Athlete of the Year, led the USA Mountain Running Team last fall with his 12th place finish at the 2009 IAAF World Mountain Running Championships in Italy. He was also named the 2009 Atlantic 10 Conference Track Athlete of the Year after winning the 3K Steeplechase and 5K events at the outdoor championships.
Richmond Men, Women Capture A-10 Cross Country Championships
The conference championship marks the first for the men's program and third for the women.
Oct. 30, 2010
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The Richmond men captured the program's first A-10 Championship, while the women claimed their third as the 2010 A-10 Cross Country Championship was contested Saturday in Pittsburgh, Pa.
"It is a great day for our program. Words will not do justice to how happy I am for our teams. Today they raced with their hearts for each other, for our alumni and for their program. This is for them!"
This counts as men's first cross country title since joining the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2001.
Looking back, men's head coach Steve Taylor recalls, "Five years ago Andrew Benford, Matt Llano and Jon Wilson ran on this course as freshmen and after the race we spoke about winning this meet as a team. Three years ago they sat with me in the Robins Center as we discussed the plan to red shirt them last fall, providing them with the opportunity to return this year for a shot at the Atlantic 10 Conference title and a berth to the NCAA Championships. Their effort has been total; it has been pure and today it was complete. It was a total team effort and the experience of our seniors showed. I couldn't be happier for these athletes, especially to put it together as a team on this day."
"The team title is what we have been working towards for the past five years and even some of the older guys that started this eight to nine years ago," said the men's individual title winner Andrew Benford. "We've made lots of sacrifices and it's all paid off today with this title. From one to twelve, everyone on our team gave it their all. I couldn't be happier with the team winning."
It was a stand-out day for red-shirt senior Andrew Benford. He secured the men's cross country championship title and set a new course record for the 8K at 24:12. His win also stands as Richmond's first individual title since Richmond's John Ciccarelli won on the same course (Schenley Park) in 2004.
In response to his performance, Benford said: "The first 3 miles were controlled and pretty comfortable with me, Matt (Llano), Lemon (Dayton), McDonald (St. Joseph's) and a few others. By the turn-around, Lemon really started throwing in some hard surges, getting as much as 20 meters on Matt and me. By four miles, we started pulling him in and I was able to catch him on the last hill which left only 1000M of flat racing. I kept repeating `one more step, one more step, and I'll break him' to myself - those little mantra's kept me focused on the A-10 title, and in the final turn and grass stretch I realized I had it. It was a great feeling to know that all the hard work and sacrifice came together on this day and paid off."
Redshirt-senior Matt Llano also broke the course record and placed third overall with his time of 24:23.
"It feels great that everything we've been working towards for the past four and a half years has paid off," said Llano, "and hopefully we have set a precedent for the younger guys to continue for the future."
Senior Tim Quinn came in sixth-place in the men's 8K and was clocked at 24:47. Redshirt-senior Jon Wilson placed 19th overall (25:12), followed by junior Levi Grandt in 22nd (25:18), sophomore Jason Skipper in 38th (25:41), and sophomore Chris York in 40th (25:41).
The men's team results included Duquesne in second-place, followed by UMass, Dayton and LaSalle. Individually, second-place went to Chris Lemon from Dayton (24:17), fourth-place went to Matt Lemon from Dayton (24:35), and fifth-place went to Tommy Kauffman from Xavier (24:41).
As for the women, this was the team's second title win in the past three years, and the third title since 2001. Five Spider women placed in the top-15 of the women's 5K race. Senior Nicol Traynor led for Richmond, finishing second overall with a time of 17:17. Her time broke the course record by eight seconds, previously held by All-American Maureen McCandless from the University of Pittsburgh.
Redshirt-senior Amy Van Alstine clinched fourth-place with a time of 17:33. Senior Julie Rechel came in 11th place (17:52), followed closely by freshman Jill Prentice in 12th (17:58), and redshirt-senior Jenn Ennis in 14th (18:01). Freshman Alli Mannon placed 22nd overall (18:18) and senior Erin Lunny came in 25th (18:21).
"I'm proud of the way our team attached and executed our race plan today," said women's head coach Lori Taylor. "It's been a combination of things that included a tremendous amount of hard work and a decision they made for each other last year. Traynor, Van Alstine, Rechel and Prentice took the race out and set the tone from the start of the race, which put the other teams on the defensive. Ennis, Mannon and Lunny kept them close, to close out any hope."
"It's great to win the team title, said Traynor. "That has been one of our team goals all season along with qualifying to the NCAA Championships. This was another test for us and I think it says a lot about our program for both our men and women to win here today."
She went on to say, "I'm happy with my race. We wanted to make the first one and a half miles go as smooth and easy as possible, which turned it into a quick race. Our plan was to run in groups and we did that very well through the first one and half miles. It was me, Amy, Julie and Jill together at that point and then we started racing with the goal of using what we had left for the last mile."
"I'm really excited about the team win today," said Van Alstine. "It's been one of our team goals for this season and we're all really pumped. It is also one of reasons I came back for my fifth year."
The top five teams for the women's 5K race included LaSalle in second-place, Dayton in third, Saint Louis in fourth, and both Charlotte and Duquesne tied for fifth. Megan Hogan from George Washington won the women's individual title (16:56), while Maura Bulgrin from Dayton placed third (17:28), and Stephanie Bearish from LaSalle took fifth (17:35).
In addition to clinching both first-place slots, Richmond walked away with numerous Atlantic 10 awards and accolades: Andrew Benford was also announced the Atlantic 10 Men's Performer of the Year, and head coaches Steve and Lori Taylor were honored with the Atlantic 10 Coaches of the Year awards. Lastly, the top 15 runners in each race earned 1st team All-Conference honors, including Nicol Traynor, Amy Van Asltine, Julie Rechel, Jill Prentice, and Jenn Ennis for the women, and Andrew Benford, Matt Llano, and Tim Quinn for the men.
Lori Taylor concluded, "It's great for both teams to win... [They] have been inspired with specific goals, and today they realized one of those goals with two Atlantic 10 team titles."
Make sure to check out the A-10 Championships Photo Gallery
The Spiders compete next at the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship in Louisville, Ky. on Nov. 13.
For more in-depth coverage on the race, visit Coach Taylor's blog, or follow him on Twitter.