Men Place Second, Women Eighth at SoCon Championship

track athletes running an outdoor race

Jahanzib Shahbaz ’21 (above) earned First Team All-SoCon honors with his second-place finish at the SoCon cross-country championships Nov. 21, 2020. The men’s team finished second, and the women’s team, led by Anna Armfield ’21, finished eighth.—Photo courtesy VMI Keydets.

Looking to finish the shortened 2020 season on a strong note, the VMI cross-country teams had excellent finishes at the Southern Conference Cross Country Championship held at the Georgia Premier Cross Country Course Nov. 21, 2020, in Macon, Georgia.

The VMI men placed second overall with 63 points, the lowest and best team score since the Keydets returned to the SoCon in 2014. The previous best score for the VMI men was 79 points from the 2015 league race. The VMI women’s team placed eighth overall with 185 points. Senior Jahanzib Shahbaz ’21 placed second individually with an 8k time of 24:23.74 to earn First Team All-SoCon honors for the second straight year. With Furman qualifying for the NCAA championship as a team given its men’s victory in the race, Shahbaz is expected to be at the NCAA National Championship as the first individual representing the SoCon at the national race.

“I am proud of the way the men’s team came together in the past two months,” said Drew Ludtke, Ed.D., VMI head cross country coach. “I believe today’s experience will live as one of the greatest memories for their entire lives.”

Gavin Jenkins ’22 earned Second Team All-SoCon recognition for the second straight year with his ninth-place mark of 25:47.44. The VMI women were led by senior Anna Armfield ’21, who placed 15th overall in the field with a personal-best 5k time of 18:52.11. She earned the best female VMI score in Southern Conference history by placing 15th overall, which gave VMI a record-low 14 points for the team. The women’s eighth-place finish ties the best VMI women’s placement in the school’s SoCon history, and the 185 total team points is also the best in program history as a member of the Southern Conference. When VMI competed in the Big South Conference, the Keydets’ Jenna (Moye) Vilushis ’13 placed fourth overall in the 2012 Big South race and teammate Leah Schubel ’13 arrived in 14th place. At the 2009 Big South championship, the Keydet women placed second overall with Hannah Granger ’11 winning the individual title.

“I am proud of Anna, who was also our only senior at the meet,” Ludtke said about the women’s race. “She also ran a personal best time! The women really came together today to have great races, a learning experience, and the best VMI score in school history! I am proud of their work!”

The VMI women topped ninth-place The Citadel (242) and 10th-place Wofford (255).

“I want to congratulate and thank all 30 men and women that are part of the cross country teams, each playing a role in the finish for both the men and women today,” said Darrin Webb, VMI director of track and field and cross country. “I am very proud of how they competed and the effort they gave. Five men in the top 23 today, and three women in the top 50, is just amazing. Congrats to Coach Ludtke and our entire team! A second-place finish for the men, and eighth for the women were great efforts.”

For full results, see the SoCon news release here.

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