Marshall Meyer didn't need the warnings being barked at him as he moved within 800 meters of the finish line Saturday morning at USC Beaufort's Sand Shark Invitational.
"I know he's coming," Meyer said without breaking stride, alluding to SCAD Savannah's Ignacio Cesar Fernandez Lazaro, who was beginning to close the gap between himself and Meyer after hanging back with the pack for most of the 5-mile race.
Meyer held on to win the individual title by 21 seconds, helping the Sand Sharks tie SCAD for the team title, but Meyer and the Sand Sharks are taking their victories with a grain of salt given the Bees' conservative approach.
"They were holding back," said Meyer, who finished in 25 minutes, 36 seconds. "It was more of a workout for him. He didn't take it out like he normally does. He pretty much just kicked it the last mile and a half to two miles. He was playing with us."
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Led by freshman Hannah Lieberman's third victory in four races, SCAD won the women's title by 16 points over Southern Wesleyan, which finished five points ahead of third-place USCB.
That did little to dampen the Sand Sharks' spirits on a day when 13 USCB runners set personal records and Meyer and Selena Hutson each broke their own school-record times.
Hutson's time of 19:19 was good for third place in the 5-kilometer women's race, and it shattered her previous school-record mark of 20:12. Hutson was one of nine USCB women to run personal bests, giving the Sand Sharks some motivation to keep the times moving downward between now and the Sun Conference championships, which will be held on the same course winding through Sgt. Jasper Park next month.
"I feel like this definitely opened our eyes a lot, because we saw that we can do it," Hutson said. "We knew we could, but now that we did do it, we can go back out to practice and know that we already did it once and go back and train even harder."
The Sand Sharks still have some work to do to catch SCAD's women, who had four runners break the 20-minute mark. Lieberman led the way in 18:33, 17 seconds ahead of Southern Wesleyan's Erica Segars, though she was somewhat disappointed with her time.
"I haven't gotten my high school PR (of 18:23) yet, which I'm getting pretty frustrated about," Lieberman said. "It was probably the best course I've ever run on because it was completely flat. There's a few turns, and I got a little confused on some parts, but it was a great course to PR on, even though I didn't."
She will get another chance in three weeks, when the Sand Sharks host the Sun Conference championships for the second time in three years.
That also will mark Meyer's next shot at measuring where he stands against Lazaro, as both compete for invitations to the NAIA National Championships on Nov. 20 in Vancouver, Wash.
The Sand Sharks are still looking for their first team bid to nationals, but even if they don't achieve that goal this season, they hope to show enough improvement over the next three weeks to earn several individual bids.
"I think we learned some things today, some racing tactics," USCB coach Larry Kimball said. "We made a couple errors, but I think for the most part we learned from them, and that's what the early races are all about."