TERRE HAUTE, Indiana – For just the sixth time in the program’s history Texas A&M will have a men’s team competing at the NCAA Cross Country Championships when the national meet is held on Monday, Nov. 24 at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course at the Wabash Family Sports Center.
Members of the men’s team competing in the national meet are Mitch Bible, Kevin Burnett, Kevin McNab, Graham Northcutt, Kevin Ondrasek, Joseph Sauvageau, Logan Sherman and Shadrack Songok. In addition to the men’s team, the Aggies will also have Christina Munoz and Elizabeth Slaughter in the women’s NCAA field.
The NCAA Championships will be televised live by CBS College Sports from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The action will also be available via a webcast on NCAA.com. The women will race over a distance of 6,000 meters, starting at 11 a.m. The men’s race, covering 10,000 meters, will begin at 11:45 a.m.
“The enthusiasm in this group is what is making this happen,” noted Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “Any time you plug in a stinger like Shadrack, who has that much talent, into a group it helps the group focus on being successful.
“Qualifying a team to the NCAA Championships is great for our program, overall as a track and cross country program. We are trying to balance our program. We’re not just putting a whole lot of money into our cross country program, nor are we neglecting cross country. We’re trying to have a balance between cross country and the track team. It’s harder to be as successful when you do it that way. So, it makes this a bigger tribute to these guys for what they have accomplished.”
Previous Texas A&M men’s teams competed in the NCAA Championships during the following seasons: 1961 (12th), 1982 (20th), 1999 (22nd), 2002 (26th) and 2003 (19th). This year’s Aggie crew enters the meet as South Central Region champions. Texas A&M became just the second team to defeat Arkansas at the region meet in the past 30 years, ending a streak of 18 consecutive region victories by the Razorbacks.
“We have big goals for this week,” A&M assistant coach Dan Waters said. “It’s been a really nice season for us and we’ve seen the team come together. They have a great chemistry and they’re running for each other every week. They understand this sport and understand what it takes to be competitive.”
Winning the South Central Region meet also moved the Aggie men up in the national rankings. Texas A&M is No. 19 heading into the NCAA Championships, moving up from their previous ranking of No. 22. The highest ranking for the Aggies this season was at No. 18 prior to the Big 12 Championships.
This fall the men’s squad claimed victories over Arkansas twice, with the first win coming on the Razorback’s home course during the Chile Pepper Festival. The Aggies also produced its lowest team score, 95 points, in the Big 12 Championship meet as they finished fourth behind three nationally-ranked programs – Oklahoma State, Colorado and Iowa State.
Songok, a Material Science & Engineering graduate student, won his third South Central Region individual title last weekend in Waco and was named the region Athlete of the Year. Previous NCAA Championship meets for Songok have resulted in a seventh place finish in 2007 (29:51) and a 19th place effort in 2006 (31:24).
“It’s exciting to be going back to nationals with a team,” Songok noted. “It’s going to be a lot different for me this time. I’ll have a group to warm up with and go over the course with rather than doing all of that by myself. It will help decrease the level of tension and stress for the race since we have a group there to encourage each other.”
While Songok has been the top runner for the Aggies this season, fellow senior Kevin McNab has locked in as the second finisher on the team. McNab posted top 10 finishes in the Big 12 (10th) and South Central Region (sixth) meets.
“Knowing that we are going to the national meet as winners of the region is tremendous,” McNab stated. “That’s unheard of for Texas A&M. I’m glad to be part of this.”
The top two finishers on the Aggie women’s squad each meet this season have been Munoz and Slaughter. Munoz qualified for her second NCAA Championship meet in cross country with a third-place finish in the region meet while Slaughter placed 20th overall and earned her first trip to nationals.
“I’m so ready for nationals,” Munoz noted. “Last year I was sick prior to the race, so I want to see what I can do on this course when I’m healthy. I’m really looking forward to the challenge of racing against so many top runners in the country.”
Slaughter said: “This past summer I really focused hard on my running and was very consistent with my eating, nutrition and sleeping. I was trying to do everything possible so I could to set myself up for a good season. The little things really do help. It makes a big difference in attaining your goals.”
This season marks the fourth consecutive year individual(s) have advanced to the NCAA meet for the Aggies. Previous qualifiers included Sarah Balfour (2005), Merideth Snow (2006), Brian McKinstry (2006) and Munoz (2007).
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