RICHMOND, Va. – Head Coach Julian Spooner of the Virginia Commonwealth University men's cross knew what kind of talent he was getting when junior Walid Berkhedle (Toronto, Ontario) joined his squad this year.
What he didn't know about was the toughness and heart that Berkhedle possessed.
Those traits were on display Saturday morning as the junior transfer from Clayton State dashed through the eight-kilometer Colonial Athletic Association championship course for a time of 25:41.21, good enough for 11th-place and a spot on the All-CAA squad.
Unfortunately for the Black & Gold, that was the only bright spot of the day as the Rams finished fifth at the championships, behind William & Mary, George Mason, Delaware and Northeastern. It was the 10th straight conference title for the Tribe.
"Walid was really our only good performance of the weekend," Spooner said. "He was battling all sorts of pain, but pulled through for an All-CAA spot, which was great for him. Overall, though, I'm pretty disappointed on the outcome. I really thought if we were able to put things together we can finish top two or three."
Senior Piotr Dybas (Jaslo, Poland) grabbed a top-20 finish with a time of 25:55.53 and junior Axel Mostrag (Krasnik, Poland) picked up a top-30 finish, stopping the clock in 26:38.65.
"It wasn't great conditions with the wind and a very challenging course, but that's not really something you can use as an excuse because it was the same for all the teams," Spooner said.
The youth of the Black & Gold wrapped up the team's scoring with sophomore Tyler Simmons (Manassas, Va.) and freshman Brenden Leavitt (Virginia Beach, Va.) each finishing in the top-40.
"We've got some solid young runners, but we have to continue to work on getting a lot better in the offseason," Spooner added.
CAA CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS
- William & Mary 21
- George Mason 57
- Delaware 81
- Northeastern 129
- VCU 130
- Georgia State 173
- UNC Wilmington 176
- Hofstra 225