The Wildcat Invitational held at Westmoreland County Community College, Youngwood, PA, on Friday, September 11th was the season opener for the Hawks and the team came out of the gates charging. The field of nine schools included Point Park College and Carlow University, both 4 year schools out of Pittsburgh, PA and members of the NAIA. Two year programs included Westmoreland Co. CC, Lorain Co. CC, Penn Highlands CC, Harford CC, Garrett College, Carroll CC and Hagerstown. The Hawks had 5 men place in the top 10, and 7 men finishing in the top 20, out of a field of 35. Crossing the finish line together, Henry Schmidt (16:20.3) edged out teammate Iggy Chalker (16:20.4) to take individual honors, and Trent Overcash (16:30.3) took third, rounding out the Hawks tri-fecta. Trailing Overcash by 40.9 seconds and finishing fourth was teammate James Buchheit (17:11.2), and on Buchheit's heels, Gabe Conder (17:18.4) placed 6th. David Butts (18:05.2) and Garrett Kercheval (18:57.0) finished 14th and 15th respectively, and 11 seconds out of the top twenty, Dharma Bhatt (19:51.8) placed 21st. "In the first 1000 meters of the event, Point Park took a solid lead. Our guys set a good pace, kept their composure, and steadily moved up. It's a testament to their excellent level of fitness and their dedication to training and to one another," commented Head Coach, Mike Spinnler. The Westmoreland course was a 5K loop, and Coach Spinnler was encouraged by the 58 second difference between Overcash and Conder.
When asked about his preparation for the Garret Invitational this coming Saturday, Spinnler added, "I tell the guys every day, our best competition is ourselves. Our goal now is to narrow the gap between our #1 and #5 finishers to less than 1 minute for an 8K race. It's a lofty goal, but the closer we get to it, the closer we are to our team goal of qualifying for the national meet and finishing in the top 15." Spinnler also felt good about his squad overall. "Each man has a goal of trying to be closer to the teammate ahead of him. These kids are given homework each weekend to challenge themselves to run something of substance. The beauty of this group is they do their homework." The weather forecast for Saturday is cool, and the field is projected to include the Hawks, Carroll CC, Harford CC, Penn Highlands CC, Westmoreland Co. CC, and host Garrett College. For the Hawks, the hope is to narrow the gap.