SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Backed by top-15 finishes from senior Andrew Johnston and junior Mickey Davey, the Air Force men's cross country team placed third out of 21 teams this afternoon (Sept. 29) at the 62nd-annual Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational. The women collected top-30 finishes from senior Carina Gillespie and junior Jaci Smith to place sixth out of 20 teams and record the program's first top-10 finish at that meet.
The men, who are receiving votes in the USTFCCCA rankings, finished ahead of three nationally-ranked teams and four that earned votes in the latest poll, while the women, also receiving votes in the national standings, placed ahead of four nationally-recognized teams (two ranked, two receiving votes).
Johnston became just the second Air Force runner to break the 24-minute mark during the five-mile trek around Notre Dame's Burke Golf Course, as he posted a time of 23:59.9 to finish ninth out of 177 runners in the Blue Division. Davey, competing in his first cross country race since 2015, placed 15th in the overall field with a time of 24:05.2. Classmate Jacob Bilvado and senior Jimmy Shipley captured top-40 finishes, as they placed 32nd (24:25.6) and 39th (24:28.7), respectively, while senior Andrew Milliron rounded out the Falcons' scoring contingent with a 60th-place time of 24:41.6.
The men registered 154 points to finish third out of 21 teams in the Blue Division and claim their highest finish at Notre Dame since 2004 (fourth). Southern Utah, ranked 13th in the national standings, won the men's team title with 72 points, while No. 4 Colorado took second with 101 points. With its third-place finish, Air Force posted the best finish of the five squads receiving votes in the national poll, as Michigan (156), Eastern Kentucky (168), Texas (181) and California (184) finished fourth through seventh, respectively. Alabama, who earned the top-three individual finishes, placed eighth with 200 points, while No. 30 North Carolina State (208) and New Mexico (279) rounded out the top 10.
In her first cross country race of the season, Gillespie posted a 5K time of 16:51.5 to place 25th out of 162 runners in the women's Blue Division race. Clocking a career-best time of 16:56.9 to finish 28th, Smith became just the second Air Force runner to ever break the 17-minute mark at Notre Dame (Gillespie -- 16:41.9 in 2016, 16:51.5 in 2017). Freshman Mahala Norris clocked a 5K debut of 17:11.7 to finish 41st, while junior Shanna Burns deleted nearly a minute off of her career 5K time (17:43.5) to place 69th. Sophomore Lindsey Blanks rounded out the Falcons' scoring lineup, as she finished 74th in a time of 17:43.8.
Scoring 233 points to place sixth out of 20 teams in the Blue Division, the women captured their first-ever top-10 finish at Notre Dame. Top-ranked Colorado won the meet with 47 points, as they edged No. 3 New Mexico (51) by four points. Seventh-ranked North Carolina State (118) and ninth-ranked Arkansas (171) finished third and fourth, respectively, while No. 27 Utah finished fifth with 190 points. Air Force bettered California (seventh, 238) by five points, while just three points separated eighth (No. 26 Ohio State, 266) and ninth (Eastern Michigan, 269). Baylor, which is receiving votes in the weekly coaches' poll like the Falcons and EMU, rounded out the top-half of the Blue field with a 10th-place total of 278.
"Today was a good day for both teams and was a nice step forward for our season," head coach Ryan Cole said. "Our guys executed a very patient race and ran with great composure. Mickey had a really nice run and Andrew Milliron was key for us in our fifth spot. The women ran very tough against a handful of the best programs in the NCAA. Carina and Jaci ran tough up front and Mahala had a monster run for a freshman in only her second lifetime cross country race."
In addition to the scoring runners for the men's and women's teams, six other Falcons also competed at Burke Golf Course today. On the men's side, junior Noah Riley (71st, 24:53.2), classmate Andrew Tankersley (78th, 24:57.7) and sophomore Patrick Sullivan (79th, 24:57.9) finished within the top half of the field, while junior Trevor Siniscalchi clocked a time of 25:32.4 to place 120th. Senior Katie Burnham and sophomore Teri Brady also took part in the women's race, with Burnham finishing 95th in 17:55.2 and Brady taking 103rd with a time of 18:01.0.
Air Force closes out the first month of the season tomorrow (Sept. 30), when the rest of its squad travels to Boulder, Colo., for the 32nd-annual Rocky Mountain Shootout.