AU dominates in Peach Belt cross-country championships

Mackenzie Taylor, after winning the PBC championship, was named national athlete of the week. (photo by David Troyer, special to the Bell Ringer)

By Justin Brosemer |
Sports writer

The Augusta University men and women’s cross-country teams, led by Coach Adam Ward, turned in outstanding performances in their final competition of the 2020 season, the Peach Belt Conference Championship, hosted by the University of North Georgia in Gainesville, Ga., on Nov. 14. The men defended their PBC crown, and Mackenzie Taylor won the women’s championship and finished the season undefeated.

“Our men ran a great race together and took care of business,” Ward said. “Winning our first ever back to back championships and our fifth since restarting the program in 2010 was special indeed. And it was bittersweet, but mainly because one of our seniors, Hunter Kimball, won’t have a chance to compete in another XC season. He was apart of a group of guys who came in and took us from good team that made nationals once as a team and twice with individuals, to making three trips in the last four years. I’m glad we could send him and the others out on top.”

The men’s team would go on to win the championship during Saturday’s event. The team would hold off talented programs such as the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, Columbus State and Flagler to take the win. Augusta would finish with a team time of 2:05:37 to earn a score of 24, 23 points lower than Flagler’s runner-up finish. Jacob Poston led the charge for the men’s team coming in second place with a time of 24:23.9. He would be accompanied by the likes of other AU men’s runners Brennan Silliman (fourth, 25:06), Kimball (fifth, 25:06), Hans Troyer (sixth, 25:13), Kai Brickey (seventh, 25:34) and Chandler Kennedy (10th, 26:00) rounding out the top 10 to ensure Augusta’s victory.

“As for the women, it didn’t end up exactly where we had hoped. Things got a little stacked against us between some unfortunate and unexpected injuries and a much smaller roster than we were expecting,” Ward stated. “Despite that, the women ran well, and Mackenzie ran an inspired race to grab the individual championship and set two records en route.”

The women’s team would finish in fourth place, finishing behind UNC Pembroke, North Georgia and champion program Flagler. Sophomore first-season runner Taylor now holds the PBC Championship women’s 5K record with a time of 17:07.86. She finished 54 seconds ahead of the next closest runner, belonging to Na’ilah Allen of Clayton State, which adds another record Taylor holds in the PBC. AU women’s runners Miranda Taylor (14th, 19:11), Haley Gilbert (23rd, 19:51), and Jaelen Alexander (24th, 19:56) would finish in the top 25 as well. Although coming up short on their ultimate goal, the women’s team has a lot to be proud of and look forward to in the coming seasons.

Following the championship, the Peach Belt Conference announced their awards for the season. Poston would be named PBC co-Runner of the Year as well as to the all-conference team, with AU men’s runners Silliman, Kimball, Troyer, Brickey, and Kennedy receiving all-conference honors as well. Carlos Rodriguez would receive an PBC All-Sportsmanship Team nod after a promising season and an 18th-place finish as a sophomore (with a time of 27:16). Ward would also be named PBC Coach of the Year following the Jaguars’ victory. The AU men have been ranked as high as third in the country this season.

Taylor would be the only member of the women’s team to receive honors, earning PBC All-Sportsmanship, all-conference and PBC Runner of the Year, which was voted on prior to the championship. Coming off a perfect season, Taylor would also be named the USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week on Monday. She won all four races she competed in this year. Going undefeated in a season is a rare feat for a college athlete.

Due to the cancellation of an NCAA Division II Championship for cross-country because of the pandemic, the 2020 season has come to an end.

“We will now begin the process of getting ready for track season to capitalize on this success for more records and postseason accolades,” Ward said.


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