By Collin Giuliani// Sports Editor
The Panthers entered the 2018 cross country season with lofty expectations. Coming off of a championship in 2017, HPU was picked to finish first in the Big South Conference according to preseason polls. Despite the lofty expectations, HPU was able to win their second straight team title, and their fourth in the last five years, as on Oct. 26, HPU won the 2018 Big South Women’s Cross Country Championship.
The win gives HPU their fifth team title in conference history, which is now the third most titles won by any school in the history of the conference, trailing only Liberty’s nine titles (now a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference) and Coastal Carolina’s 13 titles (now a member of the Sun Belt Conference). The Panthers finished the championship with 23 points, which was the lowest (best) total by any school since the 2002 Big South Championship when Coastal Carolina won with 22 points. HPU’s total of 23 points was the fourth best result in the championship in the history of the conference, trailing only Coastal Carolina’s 22 points in 2002, Coastal Carolina’s 16 points in 1997, and Coastal Carolina’s 15 points in 1996.
Sophomore Famke Heinst won the individual title for the second straight year for the Panthers. Running in rainy conditions in Kernersville at Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex, Heinst finished with a time of 17:53.8. She was the only runner to cross the 18-minute mark, as she finished a commanding 25 seconds ahead of Campbell freshman Shanley Koekemoer, who came in second place with a time of 18:19.2. Heinst became just the sixth runner in conference history to win the individual title in consecutive seasons, joining Catherine Conder of Coastal Carolina (1994-96), Jolene Williams of Coastal Carolina (1997-99), Heather Sagan of Liberty (2000-01), Anne Marie Moutsinga of Coastal Carolina (2002-03) and Jennifer Klugh of Liberty (2010-12).
Through two seasons at HPU, Heinst has already won two individual cross country titles, as well as the Big South Freshman of the Year award in 2017; Heinst is the only HPU player ever to receive that award. Additionally, Heinst has won as many individual titles as every other player in HPU history combined; before Heinst’s arrival in 2017, HPU had won just two individual titles, with Jemissa Hess winning in 2004 and Zsanett Kis winning in 2008. The win by Heinst gives HPU its fourth individual title, tying the Panthers with Radford for the third most individual titles in Big South history, trailing only Liberty (six titles) and Coastal Carolina (17 titles). With the win, Heinst becomes the seventh runner in Big South history to win multiple individual Big South Championships.
During the race, three HPU runners finished inside the top four, with freshman Lindsey Ickes coming in third place with a time of 18:34.3, and junior Zoe Geis coming in fourth place with a time of 18:35.4. Heinst, Ickes and Geis averaged under six minutes per mile; to put HPU’s dominance into perspective, while HPU had three runners accomplish this feat, the rest of the conference had two runners combined, with Shanley Koekemoer of Campbell (18:19.2) and Clara Wincheski of UNC Asheville (18:36.2) being the only other runners to do this.
Two other Panthers finished inside the top 10, with junior Keaton Case coming in seventh place with a time of 18:44.3, and sophomore Julia Hellman coming in eighth place with a time of 18:46.7. Other runners for HPU included sophomore Franziska Jakobs (12th place, 18:57.8), sophomore Sydney Bagus (15th place, 19:23.0), junior Charis Dinger (24th place, 19:49.8), freshman Camryn Harper (27th place, 20:03.2) and Lucy Clayton (38th place, 20:37.7). The field consisted of 82 runners; of the 10 runners in the field from HPU, all of them finished in the top half.
Remy Tamer was named the Big South Coach of the Year for the second straight season following HPU’s sweep of the team and individual title. Tamer becomes just the sixth head coach in Big South history to win multiple Big South Championships, joining Alan Connie (13 titles won with Coastal Carolina), Brant Tolsma (nine titles won with Liberty), Stan Rosenthal (four titles won with UNC Asheville), Mick Stewart (three titles won with Radford) and Jenna Wrieden (two titles won with High Point). Tamer, who last season became the third head coach in HPU history to win Coach of the Year honors, alongside Mike Esposito in 2011 and Jenna Wrieden in 2014 and 2015, gives HPU its fifth Coach of the Year honor in the past eight seasons.
Six Panthers (Heinst, Ickes, Geis, Case, Hellman, Jakobs) made it onto the All-Conference Team, which is given to the top 12 finishers from the race. Besides receiving All-Conference honors, Keaton Case was named the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year, becoming the third player in HPU history to receive this award, alongside Kelsey Fraser in 2011 and Julia Zautcke in 2015.
For the second consecutive year, and for the fourth time in the last five years, HPU has won the Big South Women’s Cross Country Championship. Photo by highpointpanthers.com