After 182 days with no sports, LSU’s men’s and women’s cross country teams led off fall sports Saturday

LSU's Eric Coston finished 19th in the 2020 season opening meet Saturday

After a summer’s worth of training where hot temperatures and suffocating humidity were generally prevalent, LSU’s Davis Bove embraced a surprise of sorts.

LSU’s cross country teams conducted their season-opening competition at the University Club amid 70-degree temperatures with 10-12 miles-per-hour winds and a persistent drizzle. It made for an enjoyable outing in which Bove topped the Tigers with a 10th place finish and time of 17 minutes, 52.9 seconds over the 6K course in Saturday’s SEC Preview Meet.

“It was definitely kind of funny, but I was kind of happy that the conditions were like that,” Bove said. “It made for a more interesting race. That was almost perfect running weather. It made for a fast race and I thought we handled it well.”

It was the first athletic competition conducted by LSU since the coronavirus pandemic shut down all activities last March. The 2020 season also faced uncertainty until the SEC gave the go-ahead for teams to compete in a shortened season of three regular-season meets and the SEC Championships on Oct. 30 back at the University Club.

“I’m thankful we even got to race,” LSU’s Julia Palin said. “I’m thankful to the SEC and LSU for doing what it can to keep us safe.”

LSU opened in which the conference’s top two teams in the men’s divisions – Arkansas and Ole Miss – finished in that exact order with the Razorbacks outdistancing the Rebels, 29-37.

Texas A&M, the SEC’s fifth-rated team, was next with 85 and LSU 96.

“Performance wise, the men ran really well,” LSU cross country coach Houston Franks said. “We had a few guys that could have certainly run a little better; execute a few things better. I thought the effort was great.”

Bove, a sophomore from Franklin, Tenn., was steady throughout in his race, remaining behind the pack of leaders, and produced a strong finish to nip Arkansas’ Luke Meade and secure 10th place.

Senior Eric Coston and Jackson Martingayle were 19-20th (18:27.2; 18:28.3), while Will Dart was 29th (18:55.1) and Adam Wise (32nd, 18:59.7) for the Tigers.

“With it being such a long time since we raced, I wasn’t quite used to the feeling that you get in the middle of a race,” Bove said. “Once I let them get away it was hard to catch back up. I took something from it and I think next time I’ll be able to stay with them like I should, hang onto the group for the middle parts of the race and have the same kind of finish that I had.”

Arkansas’ women more than lived up to its billing with a perfect score, having its top five runners finish 1-5 to easily pull away from Ole Miss (46) and LSU (96) in the five-team race.

The Tigers were without their top returning performer in Mary-Kate McDonald, who is still several weeks away from competing after suffering an Achilles injury this summer.

“The women placed where we should have placed in this meet,” Franks said. “I think we need to be a little more aggressive in the middle. I think we left some points out there.”

Palin was 16th (17.51.7), just ahead of teammates Alicia Stamey (19th, 18:01.5), Shelby Spoor (22nd, 18:16.7), Adele Broussard (24th, 18:25.5) and Molly Canham (28th, 18:32.3).

“I was happy with how I got out in my position, but I need to be more aggressive with holding that spot,” Palin said. “I definitely have a lot of work to do.”

Palin, a native of Norton, Mass., could feel the excitement in her return to racing before stepping to the starter’s line.

“Once we started warming up it was like, ‘yeah, I remember this feeling’,” she said “It made me super excited again to get on the (starting) line. I love the grind of cross country and I’m thankful to be able to run and hopefully we can take advantage of every race we run.”

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