Western Carolina’s cross country teams became the school’s first athletic program to compete in the 2020-21 school year Saturday at Mercer.

The meet was announced by WCU just one day before it was held. The Southern Conference Meet is set for Nov. 21 at Mercer. To be eligible for NCAA competition, schools must compete in at least two meets.

Typically a fall sport, cross country was moved to the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the NCAA decided to move it back to the fall to prevent a conflict with indoor track.

Junior Kate Mattison and freshman Drew Zink led Western at the Georgia Premier Cross Country course.

The Lady Cats finished last among the four teams. WCU’s men did not have enough runners to qualify for team standings.

Mattison completed the 5K course with a time of 19:09 to finish fifth. Completing Western’s top five were:

Caroline Schoessow, 14th, 19:56; Peyton Wood, 18th, 20:28; Jamie Blaylock, 19th, 20:34; and Sydney Runyan, 23rd, 21:21.

Samford won the meet with 24 points, followed by Mercer (60), UT-Chattanooga (62) and WCU (78).

Zink paced the Catamount men in the 8K race to finish 16th with a time of 27:50. Other Western finishes included:

Clay Summers, 19th, 28:03; Fletcher Bost, 25th, 29:05; and Joshua Stapleton, 34th, 32:48.

Mercer won the meet with 29 points, followed by Samford (50), UT-C (55) and Point (96).

“It was exciting to open our season after so many delays,” Coach Jesse Norman said. “We were close on the women’s side, but we just got beat in depth. I’m excited about Kate’s finish.”