Hosting the ACC Cross Country Championships on its home course at Musser Farms, Clemson got a strong individual performance from Ty McCormack on the men’s side, while the women’s 6th-place finish as a team was their highest league showing in 12 years.
Though the men didn’t make an impact as a team with their 10th-place finish in the 8K race, McCormack’s PR time of 23:28.2 earned him an 8th-place finish as an individual, and, also, All-ACC honors.
“It was at home and is a big thing for Clemson, and I wanted to go for the win, or to at least get some good representation out there,” said McCormack, who, at one point, led the race. “With around 2K to go in the race, I took the lead. I tried to put them away and just pushed as hard as I could. Unfortunately, there were some guys who were a little older than me, and a little stronger, and they got me there at the end.
“But I led until about the first 5K. I finished 8th, which I was happy with. I got all-conference, and a 30 second PR, so I can’t complain too much. I gave it all I had, and it was an all-or-nothing. I didn’t get the desired result, which was a win in front of all these people, but I’ll take what I got. I know how tough this conference is, especially distance-wise, so getting my first All-ACC honor as a sophomore is a huge deal.”
Tiger distance coach Brad Herbster was happy with McCormack’s race, though he questioned the decision to expend so much energy that early.
“Ty ran a great race,” said Herbster. “Our plan was to get him in the top-ten, and he stepped-up and finished 8th. He surged in the middle of the race pretty hard. If he could ease off that a little, he’ll have a lot more success later on.
“Overall, on the guys’ side, the team didn’t do well, but Ty was the team today. He just used so much energy in the middle of the race. But we’re getting ready for Region, and we’ll see if he can make a run at All-Region.”
On the women’s side, Clemson’s best performer in the 6K race was Alyssa Kulik, who placed 24th with a time of 21:07.4. With only 17 seconds separating Kulik from the Tigers’ fifth-best finisher (Elyse Borisko), the group dynamic was the team’s strength, as Kate Borowicz placed 31st (21:14.9), and was followed closely at 32nd and 33rd, by Natalie Anthony (21:15.9) and Kim Ruck (21:16.1), respectively.
“I think we worked the best as a team than we ever had at this meet,” said Kulik. “It was the last K, and Kim gets up next to me, and starts encouraging me. She said something like, ‘Come on, we’re almost done!’ It helped me finish so much stronger than I would have.”
Ruck found herself considering the fact that, as seniors, she and Kulik were running in their final ACC meet.
“I was just thinking that this is our last race,” said Ruck. “We talk about working together in practice, but when it comes down to doing it, it’s hard not to go out there and race for your time. It was just a great team effort all the way around.”
On the other hand, Herbster would have liked some stronger front-running.
“We needed that frontrunner,” he said. “I think we got out pretty hard and then kind of faded in the middle of the race. We just need to maintain through that middle section. If we can do that, that will really set us up to have somebody - either Alyssa, Kim, Kate, Natalie - really step-up and extend themselves well beyond our 5th. Right now, really not having that low-stick kind of sets us back.
“When you look at the times, we just have to have that front-five run five-seconds faster, more. It’s really taking off a lot of points that gets us into the mix of the high team-score.”
While agreeing that the women haven’t tapped their full potential, Director of Track & Field Lawrence Johnson was pleased with their improvement.
“Improvement is always good, and I’m very proud of the efforts,” said Johnson. “The girls ran great together as a group, which is something that we’ve been talking about all year. Last year in this meet we were 9th. To finish 6th and beat Duke, who was ahead of us in the rankings, is a feather in the hat. But I still feel like we have a lot more there, and, hopefully, we can show that in Louisville at the Regional meet.”
Johnson also took pride in how Clemson fared as host.
“I’ve been to a few of these championships,” he said, “and not to toot our own horn, but I think this is the most outstanding one I’ve been to in terms of the preparation, the presentation, and the visibility of the course.”