Cronin, Pioneers sweep Zaxby's Open titles

The Tusculum men's cross country team won the 2018 Zaxby's Open team title (photo by Chuck Williams)
The Tusculum men's cross country team won the 2018 Zaxby's Open team title (photo by Chuck Williams)

Men's Results | Women's Results

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Will Cronin and the Tusculum University men's cross country team swept both the individual and team titles at the 2018 Zaxby's Open Friday evening at the Holston Home for Children Course in Greeneville.

The Pioneers had three runner finish in the top-six and all five in the top-16 as TU posted a team score of 40 points, 18 ahead of runner-up Milligan College.  Milligan won the women's race with 40 points while host Tusculum placed sixth with 151 points.  Tusculum junior Alissa Furches was the Pioneers top-runner in her seventh straight meet as she posted a sixth-place individual finish.

Cronin, a sophomore from Greeneville, posted a winning time of 16:34.1, seven seconds ahead of TU teammate and runner-up Kyler Hodges as the Casselberry, Florida freshman came across the line at 16:40.7 in the 5K race.  Cronin's time was a 22-second improvement from his showing last year where he finished 12th overall.

The Tusculum men wins its ninth team title in program history and capture their home meet for a second time in the last three years.  Cronin wins his first individual collegiate title and becomes the first Pioneer since David Cooper to win a medal since 2012.

In the men's team standings, North Greenville was third with 73 points, followed by Emmanuel (114), Southern Wesleyan (154), King (158), Cleveland State (170), Lincoln Memorial (198), Maryville (242) and UVa-Wise (253).

Greeneville junior and Tennessee Wesleyan transfer Taylor Tupps had an outstanding Tusculum debut as he finished sixth with a time of 17:00.04.  Jackson Beason (17:22.4) and Daniel Rotich (17:30.6) finished 15th and 16th, respectively for the Pioneers.  TU freshman Carson Walls was 21st with his time of 17:46.0.  TU senior J'Quen Johnson finished 23rd, a three-position improvement from last year's home meet and his time of 17:49.7 was a full 12 seconds better than a year ago.

TU freshman Alejandro Perez (18:27.0) finished 32nd, junior Kyle Stanley (19:46.4) was 50th and the duo of Isaac Hybarger (21:23.3) and Marcus Savage (21:27.5) finished 64th and 65th, respectively to round out the scoring for the Pioneers.

In the women's race, Milligan's top-five runners finished 15th or better led by individual winner Gabrielle Mardis as she posted a 5K time of 20:21.5.  The Buffs, who finished with 40 points, won by 12 points over runner-up North Greenville.  King was third with 68 points, followed by Southern Wesleyan (128), Lincoln Memorial (135), Tusculum (151), Cleveland State (208), Maryville (221), UVa-Wise (235) and Emmanuel (243).

Furches, a native of Greeneville, finished with a time of 21:17.3 on the 5,000-meter layout.  TU junior Katie MacDonald was 22nd with 22:19.5.  Junior Brooklyn Smith finished 39th with her time of 23:53.6.  Sophomore Yoland Boyd, making her Tusculum debut, finished 42nd overall at 24:11.3.  Tusculum sophomore Angel Quay finished 59th with 26:13.7 and Judith Chepkirui (26:41.8) finished 65th overall to round out the scoring.

Tusculum returns to action next Friday as the Pioneers compete at the Lenoir-Rhyne Invitational in Newton, North Carolina.  The women's race begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the men's meet at 7 p.m.