Xavier wins 2 team titles in return to competition
For immediate release . . . September 9, 2006
Women's results • Men's results
BATON ROUGE, La. — Xavier University of Louisiana returned to intercollegiate athletics Saturday by winning both team championships at the Southern University Invitational cross country meet on Southern's campus.
Xavier's women scored 29 points to win their division, followed by Southern with 48 points and Mississippi Valley with 50. Xavier's men scored 30 points, followed by Mississippi Valley with 36 and Southern with 54.
"I was very pleased to see us come back this way," Xavier coach Joseph Moses said. "Our runners looked good. Our young folks stepped up. And we're going to get better."
Xavier sophomores Ebony Harding and Darren Wallace led their respective teams in their collegiate debuts. Harding ran two miles in 13 minutes, 19.04 seconds to finish third out of 19 runners in the women's race. Wallace ran three miles in 15:43.14 and placed fourth out of 19 men.
"I had a lot of nerves out there," said Wallace, in his first interschool competition since running the mile in the District 4-5A track meet for Baton Rouge High School in April 2005. "I never felt the adrenaline like I did in this race."
Both Harding and Wallace were eligible to compete for Xavier a year ago, but the effects of Hurricane Katrina — which hit metro New Orleans five days before the start of Xavier's cross country season — forced the university to suspend athletics for the 2005-06 school year.
"I was trusting the school would bring back athletics," said Harding, a pre-pharmacy major who, like Wallace, transferred to LSU after the hurricane but returned to Xavier when classes resumed in mid-January. "Before the storm the team was so welcoming. It felt like a family. I really wanted to come back."
Harding added, "I really needed a breakthrough meet. I needed a race to give me some confidence. This race told me I can still do it."
Wallace, a marketing major and a high school classmate of Harding, said his brief time at Xavier before the hurricane "were the best weeks of my life. I loved everything about Xavier."
Xavier had five of the nine fastest women, including a 3-4-5 finish for Harding, Mimi Mornay (13:25.68) and Stacey Young (13:31.14).
Xavier's men finished 4-5-6-7-8 in their race. Senior Joshua Miles finished fifth, three quarters of a second behind Wallace. Joe Drexler-Dreis, a transfer from Miami (Fla.), was sixth in 16:04.67.
Mississippi Valley runners won both races. Bolte Mhlanga won the women's race in 13:16.77, about one second faster than teammate Brenda Reid, and Johnnie Cope was first in the men's race in 15:21.25.
Xavier will compete Friday in the Ragin' Cajun Invite at Acadiana Park in Lafayette, La. The 5,000-meter women's race will start at 6:30 p.m., followed by the 8,000-meter men's race at 7.
Xavier University of Louisiana • New Orleans
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