MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — Saturday marked the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Walters State's athletic department as the men and women's cross country teams each ran in the Panther Creek Invitational, the first race of the season for the new teams.
The debut of the cross country team was a successful one as both the Senators and Lady Senators out-paced visiting Southwest Virginia Community College. In the women's 3200 meter run, Aaliyah Mattison finished in an even time of 15 minutes to become the first runner to win a women's event at Walters State. Dakota McKinney was 30 seconds behind to finish second and Karli Yarid placed third with a time of 17:07. Lindsey Seagle was fourth at 18:59, Breanna Scearce was fifth at 21:08 and Daniela Medina rounded out the Lady Senators' runners with a time of 23:05. Morgan Lane paced Southwest Virginia by turning in a time of 25:03 and Jasmine Phillips finished with a 25:21 time.
Walters State had a men's cross country team decades ago but Saturday was a first for the women and head coach Raymond Farmer said he liked what he saw for the team's first event. "I was very happy with the results because I didn't really have anything to compare the girls capabilities with. But I was pleased with what they were able to pull out so I can see that we will keep working and keep getting better."
On the men's side, Chance Collins was the overall winner with a time of 19:28. Christopher Gaby ran in a time of 20:07 with teammate Kevin Perez in third place at 20:32. Kenneth Manning placed fifth (20:50), Nicholas Noble was sixth (21:09) and Austin Coffman placed seventh (22:30). Caleb Warner was the top finisher for Southwest Virginia as his time of 20:47 placed him fourth overall.
"I would have to say the same thing about the boys as I did about the girls," Farmer answered when asked of his impression of the Senators' opening event of the season. "I had an idea but I didn't know the extent of what we could do so I was pleased with their performance."
Starting a new program from scratch naturally presents a lot of questions and Farmer said one of the most important things he was looking for is what kind of team chemistry his runners will have as they begin the season. He said it has been all positive so far. "The biggest challenge I had was to answer if this team was going to gel, were they going to work together well and were they going to support one another. This teams works together even better than I thought would be possible."
The next event for the two teams will be in Greeneville on Friday, Sept. 6.