The USC Upstate cross country team opens its 2015 season Friday evening by hosting the 32nd running of the Eye Opener Invitational at Milliken Research Center.
The Eye Opener gets underway at 6:30 p.m. Friday with the running of the women’s 5K race followed by the men’s 8K competition at 7:10 p.m.
“This will be a good meet to start the season with,” said associate head coach Carson Blackwelder. “This race will give us a good idea of our fitness. It looks like the weather will be great and a good evening to watch some racing.”
Upstate is part of a 10-team field this weekend consisting of: Brevard, Converse (women only), Lenoir-Rhyne, Paine, SCAD Savannah, Spartanburg Methodist, Wofford and Young Harris College. The Spartan men turned in a third place finish at last year’s Eye Opener while the women placed fifth overall. Griffin Eubanks had the top individual performance for Upstate as the senior finished in second place and marked the first of his three top-10 finishes on the season. On the women’s side, Anastasia Kolesnitchenko logged a 30th place finish.
Eubanks is one of eight Spartan men returning from last year’s team and was a Second Team All-Conference performer after finishing eighth at the A-Sun Championships. He later turned in the fourth-best finish in program history for the NCAA Southeast Regionals after crossing the finish line in 89th place. Joining Eubanks are fellow seniors Mark Rennix and Calin Schumacher, juniors Theodore Kountourogiannis, Josh Lee and Alex Love, and sophomores Martin Morrow and Logan Ray. The Upstate men also welcome six newcomers in sophomore Roman Mealing, and freshmen Abraham Hernandez, Dorian Jones, Ereck Lewis, Marcus Miles and Myles Wilson.
The Spartan women return an experienced roster from last season after losing just one runner in Jasmine Polite. In total, Upstate has eight runners back and bring in one newcomer in freshman Haley McCoy. Kolesnitchenko posted three finishes of 30th or better last season led by a 17th place performance at the College of Charleston Invitational. Among the other returners are seniors Molly Bliss, Rebecca Elliott and Ashleigh Torres, juniors Kristen Bonner and Essence Jackson, and sophomores Storm-Alexis Gandy and Kelsey Warren.
The Spartans are back in action Saturday, Sept. 19 at the Winthrop Invitational in Rock Hill, S.C.