Vikings Race to Second Place on Home Course
By: Alice Coughlin
The Vikings competed on their home course for the 3rd annual Viking Open. Eight of the Vikings raced against six Berry College alumni of the "Ray John" team, in addition to Point University and individuals from Shorter University and the College of Coastal Georgia. The alumni Vikings of Ray John earned 27 points for a first place finish while the current Vikings scored 33 points for second place. Point University claimed third place with 82 points. The Vikings team average was 34:56 for the 10K course while the alumni Vikings out-raced the current team with a team average of 34:46.
For the men's team, this race was not only their first 10K of the season, or one of their last cross country races of the season, but it was also an opportunity to earn bragging rights over the former members of Berry College's cross country team. Although the Vikings were just points away from victory over Ray John, the composition of the race field and the stakes of the competition produced a reviting race.
Sophomore Ryan James led the Vikings once again in a strong performance. The unshakable race-focus of James led him to claim first place for the competition in a time of 33:14. James took no prisoners in dominating the field of 26 competitors.
Senior Blake Bannister finished his final race on his home cross country course in second place in an impressive time of 34:03. Bannister was unfaltered by the lack of surrounding runners, the heat of the course and the daunting 10K cross country distance. The characteristic middle distance runner set a solid foundation for the last race of the season which will also be at the challenging 10K distance.
In third place for the Vikings was senior Chase Babineaux. Babineaux placed seventh in the race in a time of 34:55. Babineaux's race performances for the season demonstrate his diligent effort to improve his previous personal records at each race.
Sophomore Brandon Davis came in 13th place with a time of 35:41 for the 10K course. In Davis' first cross country 10K, he was able to start smart and finish fast. Behind Davis was William Anthony who placed 15th in the race. William "Boots" Anthony ran a 36:49 for the race. Next was freshman Zack Jordan. Jordan raced to a 16th place finish in a time of 36:59.
Rounding off the team roster were Lucas Stocks and Chris White. Stocks ran to 17th place in 37:33. White came in 20th place in a time of 39:22. For both Stocks and White, this was their first cross country 10K.
On the "Ray John" team, alumni Michael Strickland, Thomas Clarke, Brady Bennett, Ryan McClay, Chris Mayer and Josh Jones returned to their roots in Berry College cross country to reclaim their racing glory. Michael Strickland raced to third place in a time of 34:10. Then, Thomas Clarke, who serves as the team's assistant, came in fifth place in 34:26. Next was Brady Bennett in sixth place in 34:33. Although both Clarke and Bennett ran near each other for the majority of the race, Clarke's classic kick was enough to out-sprint Bennett.
Next for the Ray John alumni was Ryan McClay who came in 9th in a time of 35:14. Chris Mayer raced to 11th place in 35:29. And close behind Mayer was Josh Jones, who claimed 12th place with a time of 35:38.
The Vikings will look to the USATF Cross Country Club Nationals on Dec. 10 in Seattle, Wa. as a chance to represent Berry College and become "Seattle's Best."