College Sports

In sight of the finish line

Winthrop's Trevor Beesley, left, and Brad Orr lead the Eagles into the Big South championship this week.
Winthrop's Trevor Beesley, left, and Brad Orr lead the Eagles into the Big South championship this week.

Winthrop's Trevor Beesley and Brad Orr have been pushing each other all year, feeding off one another through the good and bad times and offering encouragement to step up the pace when the body says it's about ready to hit the wall.

It must be working, because both are having banner years as seniors on coach Ben Paxton's men's cross country team.

Ask Beesley the secret of his success and he points to Orr. Right back at you, the senior from Piedmont replies.

"I wouldn't be having the success I'm having without Brad," Beesley said before a recent run at the Winthrop Golf Course. "He's led the way. I've just latched on and gone with him."

Watch Beesley and Orr run in meets or practice and you get the impression they're tethered together by a short rope.

That's the plan -- stay close until it's "go time."

"In the past I would lose focus," Orr said. "But having Trevor running with me and talking to me has made a big difference.

"Working together keeps my intensity up."

Beesley was a close third -- less than a second back -- when Orr finished second in the Winthrop Invitational in September. The tables were turned two weeks ago at the Furman Invitational, where Beesley took third, three seconds ahead of his friend and roommate.

The talented twosome, who signed with the Eagles in 2004, hopes to continue the game plan Saturday when they head to Hendersonville, N.C., for the Big South Conference cross country championship.

This one's all about the team.

Beesley, Orr and other competitors are already conceding the first-place trophy to All-American Josh McDougal, the three-time defending champion, even before the gun fires to start the 8K run over the tight Jackson Park course. McDougal, a senior from Liberty, has won 15 straight Invitational races and is considered a threat for the NCAA title.

"You really don't even factor him into the picture," Beesley said. "You just go ahead and zero-place one and count number two as number one.

"I think at his level and having to run so many miles everyday just wouldn't be fun."

Beesley and Orr have had career seasons. Beesley ran the second fastest 8K in school history when he clocked a 24:28 in the Paul Short Invitational, finishing 10th.

Orr has the second-place finish on his home course and shaved close to a minute off his previous best time.

Beesley says he tries never to put any pressure on himself to run a personal-best or finish in the top five each time out, saying it's not the end of the world if he has a bad race as long as the team succeeds.

"Competition fosters more competition," Paxton said. "The ability to push each other even if one is having bad day ... well, you can't put a price on that. Even though they want to beat each other's brains out, their main goal is beat the guys in the other uniforms."

Beesley, a transplanted Canadian, came to Winthrop from Greenwood High School, where he finished second in the state as a sophomore. Injuries slowed him down the last two years, but he was rated among the top 10 distance runners in the state.

Orr started running seriously as an eighth grader at Wren High School. Even though their schools were in different classifications, they ran against each other several times.

"He always beat me," Orr said.

Beesley, Orr and junior Brandon Hudgins, a state champion at Northwestern High School, have had exceptional years, prompting Paxton to say they're the best No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 runners he's ever coached. That's a pretty strong statement considering the Eagles' BSC championships in 2000 and 2001.

Paxton feels the men should finish in the top three if they run like they have in recent meets.

"If Trevor, Brad and Brandon keep their wits about them, we could challenge," Paxton said. "I sent them out too fast last year and it showed at the end."

Paxton ranked Liberty, High Point and the Eagles as the top three teams heading into Saturday's meet, hosted by UNC Asheville.

Beesley and Orr are looking forward to Saturday and better finishes than a year ago when the Eagles placed sixth. Orr was 18th in a time of 26:01, while Beesley came home 32nd at 27:00.

"We all know what we need to do," Beesley said. "We just have to work as a team, catch and pass runners."

Orr agreed.

"That's what we've done. We've tried not to kill ourselves at the start and pass people at the end."

So far, the game plan worked for both.

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