Griffin Eubanks highlighted the season-opening Eye Opener Invitational for the USC Upstate cross country team as the senior won the men’s race while the Spartans captured both team titles Friday evening at Milliken Research Center.
Eubanks becomes the first Upstate men’s runner to win a race since former Spartan Ross Oden captured the 2013 Eye Opener Invitational. He is also just the third Upstate athlete in program history to win the Eye Opener men’s race joining Oden and Gilbert Kemboi. The victory marks the first of his career as a Spartan.
“It definitely caught me off guard,” said the senior from Lyman, S.C. “I definitely wanted to improve upon last year. The only way to do that was to win. I have thought about it since the moment I crossed the finish line last year, but it was good to think about the team aspect this year. That was definitely at the forefront of my mind. It is definitely a blessing to be surrounded by friends, family and everyone in the area.”
Eubanks directed a trio of Upstate men in the top-15 after leading the way with a time of 26:15.51. He was grouped together with several runners, including teammate Alex Love, throughout a majority of the race, but ran away late and won by just over seven seconds ahead of second place finisher Tim Sigmon of UNC Pembroke. Love finished just behind Eubanks in sixth place with a time of 26:42.01, followed by Martin Morrow in 14th place and his time of 27:27.62.
Mark Rennix turned in the second-best finish of his career as the senior crossed the finish line in 16th place with a time of 27:44.83. Abraham Hernandez (28:30.29) and Theodore Kountourogiannis (28:36.09) compiled finishes of 26th and 28th, respectively. The duo were followed by a pair of freshmen in Dorian Jones (34th, 29:22.50), Ereck Lewis (35th, 29:30.86) and Marcus Miles (37th, 30:01.50). Rounding out the men’s competition were Logan Ray (30:31.02) in 42nd place, Calin Schumacher (30:32.06) in 43rd place, Roman Mealing (32:10.18) in 53rd place and Josh Lee (32:35.79) in 59th place. The time of 30:32.06 turned in by Schumacher was his personal-best as a Spartan.
The Upstate women got things started on Friday by winning its race for the first since the 2012 Upstate Invitational. It also marked the second time in program history that the team has won the Eye Opener Invitational with the last coming in 2009.
Ashleigh Torres and Anastasia Kolesnitchenko led the way for Upstate as the seniors both posted top-15 performances. Torres had the best individual finish after placing 11th with a time of 20:21.80 and Kolesnitchenko was 13th following her time of 20:32.09. Essence Jackson posted the third-fastest time for the Spartans after her 19th place showing and a time of 21:07.06. Molly Bliss (21:19.33) and Rebecca Elliott (21:37.30) completed the 5K course in 23rd and 27th places. Running in her first collegiate meet, Haley McCoy finished 31st after completing the course in 21:54.02. Kelsey Warren added a 40th place finish as she tallied a time of 22:35.34.
“It is a good start to the season,” said associate head coach Carson Blackwelder. “I am happy with our start and looking forward to our progress.”
The Spartans are back in action on Saturday, Sept. 19 as they travel to Rock Hill, S.C. for the Winthrop Invitational.