Cross country breaks tape at Eye Opener in Savannah

The Mercer Bears men’s and women’s cross country teams recently announced and began their spring series of races. It was kicked off on Feb. 25 with the Savannah State University Eye Opener series of races.
Mercerians broke the tape in both the men and women’s 5,000 meter race and 5K. Junior Kacie Niemann, who has been the most prolific and consistent runner for the women’s team in her three years, finished with a blistering time of 17:48.72. This was 49 seconds ahead of the second place finisher, Carri Blankenship of UNC-Pembroke. Her times were also a new Mercer record. Christina Kivi also finished in fourth, Iliana Garcia came in at eighth and Caley Cranford rounded out the Bears at 11th.
On the men’s side, the Bears dominated the competition. The Bears finished in seven of the top eight spots for the 5,000 meter run, with only the second place finisher eluding the Bears’ collective charge. Jacob Law blew away the competition with a time of 15:27.16, enough for an eight second lead over Savannah State’s Ruben Israel-McBee and Mercer’s Sony Prosper, who took third by less than five-tenths of a second. Andrew Weems, Jeff Law, Marc Kushinka, Josh Pendley and Chris Svidesskis finished fourth through eighth. Kasib Abdullah and Austin Pfeifer finished at 11th and 12th respectively, and Brandon Gaunt rounded out the Bears at 21st.
Back in the women’s 3,000 meter steeplechase, Kasie Knapper and Kylen Hughes ran very well, finishing with times of 12:37.77 and 13:33.33 respectively. In the men’s 1,500 meter run, two Mercer freshmen competed well in the multi-heat final. Austin Pfeifer finished 10th and Joel Aguilar finished 17th, and Pfeifer missed eighth by less than a second.
The Mercer Bears cross country squads are in action on the weekend of March 23 and 24. They will be headed to the Georgia Relays, hosted by the University of Georgia. The men will be participating in the 10,000 meter run, and the women are planning on competing in the 1,500 meter relay. However, the Bears will compete in the Georgia Tech “Georgia Intercollegiate” meet on March 16 first. Then, they will close out the month of March with the Emory Classic on the weekend of the 30th and 31st.
The men will also run in the Auburn War Eagle Invitational on April 21. At all of the men’s meets, they will be switching out the events in order to better train. “We will be concentrating on long distance races and will not focus on middle-distance at all this year, so we should see some impressive performances at distances 3K and up,” Coach Ryan Bailey said to the Mercer Athletics’ website.
The Bears look to improve on the course this spring in order to perform better in the fall, but after both the men’s and women’s teams earning U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division I All-Academic Status for the second straight year, the runners are obviously preparing well in the classroom. The average GPA for the teams is a 3.48.