HICKORY, N.C.—Rachel Strayer finished first overall in the women's 5K and Conal McCambridge placed third in the men's 8K to lead the Eagles to an impressive season debut at the Lenoir-Rhyne Invitational.

Strayer (Murfreesboro, TN) secured her first collegiate victory with a 19:01.85 finish besting her 13th place performance at Lenoir-Rhyne last season by over six seconds.

Acting coach Luke Greer knows what the sophomore had to persevere through to get to this point and envisions more strong outings for the 2018 SAC Freshman of the Year.

"I'm very proud of her," Greer said. "She had a rough couple of injuries previously so for her to come back and win it is great to see. I expect her to push on now going up and up."

Conal McCambridge, a graduate transfer from the United Kingdom, made an excellent first impression in his Eagles debut crossing the finish line at 26:34.41, just 26 seconds behind Josh Adkins of Lenoir-Rhyne who came in first.

"I thought he ran a very smart race versus a pack of Lenoir-Rhyne guys who really went for it," Greer said. "To run a race like that off a high mileage week and to run that well was really impressive."

Strayer and McCambridge weren't the only ones with top-10 finishes as senior Aubree Cole (Cartersville, GA) made a leap from her 39th place finish at Hickory last season to 9th this time around. Freshman Jasper Wilson (Chickamauga, GA) placed 10th in his first collegiate appearance.

Elsewhere on the women's side, Klara Naude (South Africa), Angela Dela Cruz (Morristown, TN) and Alexis Brown (Chattanooga, TN) all secured top-15 finishes.

"I'm extremely proud of what the girls were able to achieve," Greer said. "I knew they all had great heart and potential so to see them in this race to run together with heart and desire was great and I'm excited to see that progress the rest of the year."

Senior Rafael Adame (Nashville, TN) placed 13th and freshman Hunter Miller (Brooklyn, Michigan) finished three seconds behind him.

Seven total freshmen made their Carson-Newman debuts on Friday.

"It's huge a running experience," Greer said. "None of them really put the hammer down in the first mile of the race so to see how smart and patiently they raced was great."

Despite some early fears that Hurricane Dorian may put a damper on the event, it was 90° F and sunny at Lenoir-Rhyne with no precipitation.

The Eagles look to have more sunshine in their competitive future as they next visit Charlotte, N.C. for the Queens City Invitational on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

Be sure to keep up with Eagles cross country all across Carson-Newman social media platforms.

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