Cross Country Vols Finish Close Second in Tennessee Invitational

Oct. 1, 2004

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MARYVILLE, Tenn. -- Like the peaks and valleys of the Smokies framing the course, the cross country Volunteers went through their own highs and lows during the 8K Tennessee Invitational Friday evening at Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville, Tenn. On the final count, Tennessee finished its lone home meet of the season in second place with 33 points in a four-team field, just two points behind champion Tennessee-Chattanooga's 31-point total.

Tennessee-Chattanooga's Steven Kocsis won the meet with a 25:27.56 time, the 15th-fastest 8K time ever at Lambert Acres.

In the minutes after the race, the Volunteers were set to celebrate another Tennessee Invitational title by a tight 30-34 margin to top Tennessee-Chattanooga. At that point Tennessee learned that the results had been revised to reflect the disqualification of Ed Davis, who finished seventh in the original standings. Officials ruled that Davis, in making a turn with approximately 1,000 meters of the 8,000-meter race to go, had cut in front of a tree rather than behind it as the course was designed. Though the mistake could be attributed to a mental lapse and the competitive advantage slight, officials disqualified Davis per the rules of the sport.

After losing Davis' seven points to the disqualification, ninth-place Ben Lukowski was bumped up to Tennessee's fourth finisher. Also, Brian Mills, overall the 11th-place finisher and originally Tennessee's sixth man, got bumped up to fifth and into the team scoring after the DQ. The end result of the shift moved Tennessee-Chattanooga from runner-up to champion by updating the final score to UT-C 31, Tennessee 33 instead of the original 30-34 in favor of the Vols.

"It's unfortunate we lost the meet because of a mental error, but that doesn't take away from how well Ed ran," head coach George Watts said. "When you're on your home course you've got to know which way to go. I thought we competed hard. It was the battle I thought it would be with Chattanooga. I thought our guys competed hard to the wire.



Tennessee leaves its second meet with plenty of progress made. Its top three runners in Zach Sabatino, Andy Baksa and Chris Platt remained unchanged from the season opening win at Western Kentucky's Old Timers Classic on Sept. 18. Sabatino finished second in 25:36.40, the 22nd-fastest 8K time ever run at Lambert Acres.

"I'm happy in the sense that I was as close to the winner as I was while feeling tired," Sabatino said. "That lets me know that later in the season I'll be fine. I'd still like to have won. You never want to finish second. I felt really comfortable through three miles. I did quite a bit of the work early in the race [setting the pace], and it made me a little tired at the end.

Farragut native Baksa fared well in his homecoming, racing to fifth overall and second in the Tennessee pack after crossing the line in 25:51.41. Platt followed in sixth in 26:08.19. Before the disqualification, Davis finished seventh after running a competitive race. Lukowski, like Sabatino a West Virginia transfer, finished ninth in 26:21.11. Mills wrapped up Tennessee's scoring five with his 11th-place, 26:37.73 effort.

Matt Piccarello crossed in 27:02.07 to earn 14th. Kenny Schappert finished in 27:50.99 to place 16th. Karns grad Yarrick Kincaid finished 19th in 28:08.48 in his first time testing the collegiate waters. Fellow freshman and Kingsport native Nick Raff followed closely in 20th place after clocking a 28:10.07. Knoxville West grad Dusty Miller finished 23rd in 29:01.46 to conclude the Tennessee effort.

"We had a decent spread of 45 seconds between our No. 1 and Ben Lukowski, who would have been our fifth runner had Ed Davis not been disqualified," Watts said. "We also held out Jeff Day, Nate Jansen and Tyler DeVault, three runners who have a chance to be part of our conference team later this month.

The runners raced in warm and sunny conditions with a hint of a breeze floating across the foothills of the Smokies. Tennessee lined up on the right border of the starting box, flanked by the gray-clad runners of Tennessee-Chattanooga to the left and a stand of pine trees to the right.

At the two-mile mark Sabatino led a tight lead pack of three charging up the hill. Baksa stood sixth. At the four-mile mark, UT-Chattanooga's Kocsis led the race with Sabatino racing in second about 15 meters back. Baksa climbed to fourth with Davis not far behind in sixth. Platt and Lukowski stalked in ninth and 10th, respectively.

Tennessee returns to action Saturday, Oct. 9 at the Virginia Tech Invitational, a morning 8K race in Blacksburg, Va.



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