Jones, Hutton finish 1, 2 at Grizzly Open

Oakland’s Cross Country team displayed a strong start to the 2011 season at the Golden Grizzly open on Friday despite minor obstacles.

Seniors Lia Jones placed first and Brittni Hutton came in a close second place.

“The kids ran well considering the heat,” head coach Paul Rice said.  “The heat affects everybody differently, so you really can’t take too much from today other than the fact we know where we’re at.  It’s a good starting point and that’s the goal of the first meet for every year.”

On the women’s side, which was a 4K race, Jones ran a 14:09 and Hutton ran a 14:36.

Hannah Scherer (15:23), Autumn Cleverley (15:48) and Cassie Peterson (15:49) also finished in the top 15 for the Golden Grizzlies.

Jones, an All-Summit League first team member last season became the seventh woman runner in school history to win a race.

“We got a great team this year, but we know we just don’t have the depth,” Rice said. “The girl’s know that, so they’ve got to work hard this year and try to step into stops they may not be accustomed to.  And that will take a whole season for them to learn that.”

On the men’s side, which was a 6K race, the Golden Grizzlies had four runners in the top 10.

Senior Kenny Wall ran a 19:15 to finish third overall and beat out teammate senior Brandon Griffin, who finished fourth by just 17 seconds.

The men’s team was without senior Pat Cassady, last year’s Golden Grizzly Open winner, who has been red-shirted this season with an injury.

“We’re missing some guys, but we’ve got a couple of good young guys that came in this year,” Rice said.  “We’ll have a young core this year, but we have three seniors up top.”

Rice has already begun recruiting for next season and understands both the men’s and women’s teams this season are younger than usual.

“The four seniors that we have on the team this year need to really help solidify these young guys we’ve got this year,” Rice said.  “That’s the focus for this year, getting those young guys really comfortable and competing at a high-level.”

The Golden Grizzlies will compete in Sept. 10 at the IPFW Invitational in Fort Wayne, Ind.