MEMPHIS, TENNESEE - The Florida Gulf Coast University men's and women's cross country teams both finished their seasons with top-10 finishes at the NCAA Division II South Region meet on Saturday in Memphis, Tenn. "I have challenged and certainly asked a lot from our kids throughout the entire season, and on each occasion, they have responded. Friday night, during our pre-race meeting, I asked them for help with one last request...to send our seniors out with a race to remember. They all stepped up once again and sent our 3 seniors out on a great note."
The men finished eighth out of 17 teams, led by junior Mike Harney, (North Fort Myers, Fla.) who was 37th overall with a time of 34 minutes, 20 seconds. Freshmen Kyle Brunette (Venice, Fla.) finished in 34:45 for 48th, Dustin Kapper (Seminole, Fla.) came in 56th with a time of 35:10, and senior Scott Poindexter ended his collegiate running career with a 35:16 race, which was good for 59th place. All four runners eclipsed the FGCU 10K record that was previously held by Edison Vasquez ('04). Harney surpassed Vasquez's time of 35:32 by over a minute to take over the top spot on the Eagles' all-time 10K list. Senior Ismael Galicia of Naples, Fla. (74th, 35:48), sophomore Adam Ulrich of Coral Gables, Fla. (105th, 38:07), and freshman Hugo Gijon from Immokalee, Fla. (106th, 38:09) also competed for the Eagles.
The women finished 10th out of 22 competing teams, led by freshman Abbie Zaspel, who was 35th overall with a 24:26 finish. Freshman Casey Hasten was the second Eagle to cross the finish line as she came in just behind Zaspel in 38th place with a time of 24:33. The freshman duo of Hasten and Zaspel broke the FGCU 6K record, previously held by senior Katy Steffan (Naples, Fla.) Zaspel shed nearly 36 seconds off of Steffan's record holding time of 25:02 to take the top spot. Cadie Sly, a junior runner from Loxahatchee, Fla. finished 67th with a time of 25:28. Freshman Christina Slayman (Titusville, Fla.) and Steffan finished in the Top 100 with times of 25:45 and 26:09 good for 80th and 92nd place respectively. Sophomore Maria Scarpantonio (101st, 26:27) and freshman Katy Turner (150th, 33:39) also ran for the Eagles.
This season proved to be the most successful for the FGCU cross country teams in their brief history. The women's squad placed in the Top 5 four times this season with two third place finishes. Zaspel set an FGCU record in the 5K back in September at the 2006 Gator Invitational. She then went on to set the 6K record in Memphis on Saturday. In the last regular season race of the season, FGCU finished third in Division I, Stetson University's Hatter Invitational. The Eagles defeated three D-I opponents including Central Florida and the host team, Stetson.
The FGCU men's squad also ran very well this season. Harney led the Eagles in every race except for the Stetson Hatter, in which he did not finish due to injury. Harney is the all-time Eagles leader in the 5K, the 8K and 10K race distances. He set the 5K record last season at the Saint Leo Invitational and broke both the 8K and 10K marks this season. Harney had his best finish of the season at the Florida Tech Invitational. He crossed the finish line in 27:19 for a fifth place finish. At the 2006 Gator Invitational, the junior runner set a personal and FGCU best in the 8K event. Harney ran the course in 26:50 to move to the top of the Eagles' all-time 8K list. Freshman Kyle Brunette had a phenomenal first season. He finished fourth at the Stetson Hatter Invitational with a time of 28:02. Brunette's fourth place finish is the highest ever for an Eagles' runner in the 8K event. He also had an impressive finish at the Walt Disney World Classic coming in with a time of 27:32 in the 8K event. Brunette wasn't far behind Harney in the Florida Tech meet. He came in two spots behind Harney for seventh place as the two led the Eagles to their best overall finish (2nd) in school history.
Coach Highfield said, "This has been an unprecedented year for both our men's and women's cross country program's here at FGCU. I couldn't be happier or more proud of our team's performances this entire season, especially the way they finished it at the south regional meet. Highfield continued. "We have had a lot of good athletes and good kids come through our program over the past 5 years, but these two teams, these specific individual's, will certainly be my most memorable ones." Highfield added. "They each have bought into our system, trained with competitiveness and effort everyday at practice, and ultimately bonded as a running family. What more could a coach I ask for."
The program's future appears to only be getting brighter. With only losing 3 runners to graduation from both the men's and women's teams combined, the Eagles are already looking ahead to the program's D-1 debut. Highfield also said, "We have a great core returning for next season. We certainly need to add a few more pieces, here and there, but with another strong recruiting class we will feel very confident with our rosters come next fall and our Division I debut."