Fayetteville, Ark. – While the Texas A&M cross country team posted a pair of top four finishes at the NCAA South Central Regional at Agri Park, Christina Munoz used the meet as an opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championships when she placed fifth in the women’s race.
It is the third consecutive year for the Aggies to earn an individual berth into the women’s NCAA Championship field. Munoz, a sophomore from El Paso (Montwood HS), joins Sarah Balfour (2005) and Merideth Snow (2006) as recent participants in the cross country championship race.
Munoz covered the 6,000-meter distance in 20 minutes, 54 seconds as she earned the fourth and final automatic berth into the NCAA field from this regional. The NCAA Championship race will be held Monday, Nov. 19, in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“I’m just ready to go,” Munoz stated. “I’m excited that I made it this far, and ready to keep going. The training I’ve been doing this fall has been really helping me get faster each race.”
Texas A&M coach Dan Waters added: “Christina executed the race plan we put together perfectly. She had to have the best focus on race day she has had this season. I couldn’t be prouder of her effort in qualifying for the NCAA Championships. She came with a purpose today and accomplished her goal.”
SMU’s Silje Fjortoft claimed the individual title in 20:35 while Baylor’s Nichole Jones finished as the runner-up in 20:46. Arkansas’ Denise Bargiachi finished third in 20:49 to pace Arkansas’ runner-up team finish while Lamar’s Clerc Koenck placed fourth in 20:52. Allison Pye led the Rice team win with a sixth-place finish in 20:56.
“I just knew it was just going to be everybody out for them selves and it was like that during the race,” Munoz noted. “At the end of the race I could hear Kevin Ondrasek hollering that I needed to catch the Baylor girl (Lauren Hagans, who placed seventh in 21:01). I just went after her and was able to move ahead of her.”
Sarah Balfour placed 18th in 21:35 as the second A&M runner. Brenna Williamson ran 21:50 for 24th place. The trio of Munoz, Balfour and Williamson earned medals for their top 25 finish at the regional meet. Alie Cornell (22:42) and Elizabeth Slaughter (22:44) crossed the line in 50th and 51st, respectively, to round out the team scoring. Kirsten Brown finished in 60th (22:59).
Texas A&M women totaled 140 points for fourth place among 15 teams. They finished behind Rice (54), Arkansas (70) and Baylor (75). For the second consecutive championship meet this season the Aggies bettered Texas, who placed fifth with 148 points. During the Big 12 Championships the margin was just one point in favor of Texas A&M.
The rest of the women’s top 10 included Lamar (166), SMU (169), Arkansas-Little Rock (236), Tulane (239) and SFA (257).
David Hebert paced the A&M men to a third place finish among a 14-team field. The Aggies totaled 101 points in finishing behind Arkansas (37) and Texas (52). Texas A&M bettered Lamar (122), LSU (188), Baylor (193), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (200), Rice (201), Arkansas-Little Rock (239), and North Texas (262) among the field’s top 10.
“It was a nice team finish on both sides,” Waters said. “We told our kids this is one of the meets where we can make a statement. You have to be committed to running a complete season and have goals to the end.”
With a clocking of 30:27 on the 10,000-meter course, Hebert placed 16th as he crossed the finish line just ahead of teammate Kevin McNab, who was 17th in 30:31. Nick Toohey displayed another strong effort in finishing as the No. 3 Aggie when he placed 20th in 30:55. Those three A&M runners each earned a medal for their top 25 finish.
Brian Lind took 26th in 31:12 while Kevin Ondrasek was the fifth scorer for the Aggies, running 31:29 to place 35th. Andrew Montes finished 42nd (31:47) while Joe Sauvageau was 48th (31:58).
Shadrack Songok of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi ran the men’s course in 20:17 for the individual victory, putting a gap of seven seconds on Lamar’s Francis Kasagule, who was runner-up in 20:24.
Texas and Arkansas runners claimed the next five places while Joseph Simichimba of LSU earned the third individual advancement with an eighth-place finish in 29:53. The fourth automatic berth among the individuals advancing to the NCAA Championships went to Festus Kigen of TCU. Kigen placed 10th in 30:05, just a step ahead of Houston’s Steve Magness, who recorded the same time for 11th.