Lavassas Shows No Fear in Collegiate Debut

by Ashleigh Young

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Daphnee Lavassas broke into Miami’s all-time 6K top 10 list in her first-ever cross country race as a Hurricane.

A freshman from Miami, Lavassas showed no fear in her first collegiate race.

Sparked by a hot start on the Mark Bostick course, Lavassas posted a top 15 time at the Mountain Dew Invitational, crossing the finish line in 21:53.7 to finish 14th overall. The freshman now holds the seventh-fastest time in Miami history and is the first Cane to break into the top 10 since Anne den Otter and Maryam Jawid in 2017 at the NCAA South Regionals.

“What’s great about Daphnee’s situation is that she hasn’t raced for a year and a half, so for her to come out and attack the race to be right at the beginning and run with the front of the pack was huge,” distance coach Cody Halsey said. “She just had this look of determination on her face and was fearless.”

Emma Langlois wasted no time returning from her breakout indoor track season to record a 23-second personal best time in the women’s 6K at 22:23.0, finishing 23rd overall. Langlois is the lone senior for the cross country program and continues to find confidence in herself after each race.

“She’s really starting to come into herself,” Halsey said. “She’s starting to trust her training and has gotten a lot more confident from where she finished last year until now; she’s a lot more fit, too. She’s just going to keep trending up so I’m excited about her performance today.”

Three other freshmen also made their debuts for Miami, as Natalie Varela crossed the finish line at 23:44.9 and Morgan Johnson at 24:26.8. Payton Payne rounded out Miami’s group at 25:30.6.

In addition to the women’s 6K, Friday morning’s competition featured a men’s 8K. Miami was joined by two other ACC competitors in Florida State and Georgia Tech and host school Florida at the Mountain Dew Invitational.

Competing against ACC foes was a big advantage for Halsey to see where her young team stacked up against the competition before the conference championships in late October.

“Being able to see them very early in our season is really helpful for my team and for the athletes,” Halsey said. “Both Florida State and Georgia Tech are top 10 teams in our conference, so we have to take advantage of the opportunity to compete against them and go out there and be fearless. That’s really important to me.”

Sophomore Andrew Madden posted Miami’s top time for the men at 25:51.86 for a top-20 finish. His time also ranks as the third-fastest time recorded by a Hurricane since 2014 at the Mountain Dew Invitational. Dylan Sykes’ time of 25:39.2 in 2018 still ranks as Miami’s fastest time in Gainesville.

“Andrew was hungry and I think he did really well,” Halsey said. “It was a good starting point for the men because none of them have raced since February and Andrew really started where he finished off last season.”

Fellow sophomore Justin Rittenhouse boasted a big personal best time, shedding a minute and 18 seconds off his previous time to finish at 26:27.85.

“Justin has really grown up and grown in his fitness,” Halsey said. “He’s way more focused compared to this time last year and I think he’s another who is going to continue to trend upwards.”

Dillon Fields was the third Hurricane to cross the finish line with his time of 26:40.27, while Colin Wilson and Thomas Betters saw their first competition as a Hurricane Friday morning and rounded out Miami’s men’s side. Wilson finished with a time of 27:25.67 and Betters finalized the group at 30:43.05.

With Miami’s young squad of six talented freshmen, Halsey is excited for the future of the distance program. Miami travels to Tallahassee, Fla., on Oct. 2 for the FSU Invitational.