COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M’s tandem of Jon Bishop and Christian Farris qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championships by finishing in fourth and sixth place at the NCAA South Central Region meet the Aggies hosted Friday on the Dale Watts course.
Bishop, a sophomore, and Farris, a senior, will race in the NCAA Championships next Saturday, November 10, in Louisville, Kentucky. Bishop, who was among the lead pack from the start of the race, clocked a time of 30:03.8 while Farris, who placed 14th in this meet the past two years, posted a time of 30:05.2.
“Talk about a breakthrough for Jon Bishop,” stated Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. “We kind of expected Christian Farris to be up there and hopeful that Alex Riba had recovered enough to contend as well. In talking with Jon before the race we thought top 10 was a possibility.
“He did a great job of executing the race plan and being in the race. At some points I was concerned he was being too aggressive in the lead group, but each time I saw him he looked relaxed and comfortable. Christian ran a very-Christian-like race, he was up with the leaders, engaged and closed really well.”
They both earned All-Region honors along with teammate Alex Riba, who finished 24th in a time of 30:52.8.
“Really the only thought I have right now is wow, energy,” exclaimed Bishop. “Running the course everybody was so loud. When you got onto the main platform, running through crowds of people, it was insanely loud. I just took in that energy during my race. It turned into a really happy moment.”
Farris added: “I’m pretty speechless, it’s crazy. This has been a dream of mine since three years ago, when I transferred to Texas A&M. Throughout the race I wasn’t feeling that great. At 5k, I was ok and feeling comfortable, but by 7k I was hurting pretty bad. Then I managed to pull it out. I had a kick and finished well.”
In the women’s race, Ashley Driscoll paced the Aggie squad with a time of 20:26.2 on the 6,000-meter course. Driscoll finished 18th to earn All-Region honors as well.
“Ashley Driscoll is one of the most improved kids in our program,” stated McRaven. “She has been able to take advice and embrace it. In a short period of time she has gotten pretty good and has some good running ahead of her.”
Last year’s region winner Emmanuel Rotich won the men’s 10,000-meter race in 29:49. 1 with Houston’s Brian Barraza, the 2015 region winner, placing second in 29:51.5. In third place, with a time of 30:03.1, was Alex Rogers of Texas.
Claiming the men’s team title with 59 points was Arkansas while Texas scored 73 as runner-up. They both earned automatic advancement to the NCAA Championships. This marks the fifth consecutive year the Razorbacks and Longhorns placed first and second in the region meet.
Texas A&M claimed third place with 98 points. The rest of the top 10 included McNeese State (173), Texas State (179), Houston (203), Rice (234), Lamar (235), Baylor (248), and UT-Arlington (255).
“We were ranked third coming into the meet, but I don’t think anyone thought we would be a close third in the team scoring,” said McRaven. “To be there the whole race and then at the finish within 25 points of qualifying, I think, is all we could ask for today.”
Finishing as the fourth Aggie runner was Brandt Preston, who posted a time of 31:08.3 to finish 28th. Jacob Perry wrapped up the team scoring for Texas A&M by placing 40th in a time of 31:22.9. The sixth and seventh runners for the Aggies were Taylor Clayton (66th, 31:58.5) and Zephyr Seagraves (123, 33:11.5).
Arkansas women finished 1-2 with the duo of Nikki Hiltz (19:35.5) and Carina Viljoen (19:36.0) as the Razorbacks captured a seven consecutive region team title with 35 points. Texas claimed the runner-up team position with 93 points. The rest of the top five included Baylor (116), SMU (148), and Abilene Christian (163).
Texas A&M women placed sixth in team scoring with 196 points as one of their leading runners, Kelsie Warren, was unable to finish the race.
“I’m disappointed for her,” noted McRaven. “Kelsie has had some ups-and-downs physically, and then to have her hip kind of act up on her over the last two weeks after running well at the SEC meet, I’m disappointed for her.”
Kelsey Persyn placed 39th at the next Aggie finisher, completing the course in 21.03.9, and was followed by Lauryn Barrientos (21:16.4) and Ashton Hutcherson (21:18.9), who finished 44th and 45th. Hannah Campbell (21:23.7) completed the team score for Texas A&M, placing 50th. The sixth runner for the Aggies was Lizette Chapa (21:41.3), who finished 66th.
NCAA South Central Region – College Station, Texas
Team Scores (top two teams automatically qualify for NCAA Championships)
MEN: 1. Arkansas, 59; 2. Texas, 73; 3. Texas A&M, 98; 4. McNeese State, 173; 5. Texas State, 179; 6. Houston, 203; 7. Rice, 234; 8. Lamar, 235; 9. Baylor, 248; 10. UT-Arlington, 255; 11. North Texas, 263; 12. Incarnate Word, 283; 13. Tulane, 337; 14. UL-Lafayette, 340; 15. LSU, 349.
WOMEN: 1. Arkansas, 35; 2. Texas, 93; 3. Baylor, 116; 4. SMU, 148; 5. Abilene Christian, 163; 6. Texas A&M, 196; 7. TCU, 278; 8. Tulane, 282; 9. North Texas, 290; 10. Lamar, 296; 11. Rice, 313; 12. McNeese State, 336; 13. Texas State, 379; 14. LSU, 381; 15. Arkansas State, 398.