Hundreds of cross country runners broke in the new Blanchard Woods Park cross country course in Evans on Saturday.
The day began with Augusta State's Jaguar Invitational which brought in 15 different college cross country squads.
A tri-meet among Augusta Christian, North Augusta High School and Barnwell High School finished off the course's first day of use.
"Columbia County really went the extra mile to make sure this place looks good," Augusta State cross country coach Adam Ward said. "It's a pretty tough course. That middle mile - we call it Darwin's mile: You have to be strong just to survive it."
The men's and women's college races used the park's 10K and 6K courses, respectively. Benedict College freshman Emmanuel Kirwa won the men's race by a full minute and a half with a time of 34:04.30. Carson-Newman junior Aubrey Morris claimed the women's first-place title with a time of 24:41.76. Former Augusta Christian cross country star Annie Kim, now a senior at Augusta State, paced the Lady Jaguars with a fifth-place finish.
"It's a pretty tough course. I think it's one of the toughest courses I've ever run," Kim said. "I like it. It's a true cross country course."
Augusta Christian freshman Stephanie Cippollone survived the course and the rest of the field as she won the first-ever high school race at the new park. Her 5K time of 23:03 automatically went down as the course record.
In the boys' 5K race, North Augusta's William Rudisill set the pace with his first place finish. The junior was at least 30 seconds behind the leader after climbing the course's longest hill, but he took the lead and won with a time of 19:21.
"It was very hard. I walked it yesterday so I knew where all the hills were, and that's how I won it," Rudisill said. "I would say it was right at the two-mile mark, after one of the hills, I knew I had to get in front so I made a push."
The girl's high school record of 23:03 and boys high school record of 19:21 will be put to the test today when the public schools take their first crack at the course. Greenbrier, Lakeside, Evans and Richmond Academy will participate in a cross country meet at the park with a scheduled start time of 6 p.m.
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