Fayetteville, Ark. – A return visit to the Agri Park course for Texas A&M will have the Aggie cross country team competing in the NCAA South Central Regional hosted by the University of Arkansas.
Action begins on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 10 a.m. for the men while the women race at 11:15 a.m. The men's course will cover a distance of 10,000 meters while the women run over a 6,000-meter distance on a slightly hilly terrain.
The top two teams, as well as the top four individuals not part of the top two squads, automatically advance to the NCAA Championship field. At-large berths for teams and individuals will be determined on Monday following other regional action from this weekend.
Texas A&M will be represented by David Hebert, Brian Lind, Kevin McNab, Andrew Montes, Kevin Ondrasek, Joe Sauvageau and Nick Toohey in the men's field. The Aggies, who received a vote for the top 30 national poll the past two weeks, head into the regional meet ranked third among South Central teams behind Arkansas and Texas, while positioned ahead of Lamar, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, LSU, Rice, Texas-Arlington, Baylor and Arkansas-Little Rock.
The Razorbacks, ranked No. 7 nationally, recently won a 17th consecutive SEC title with a score of 36 points. No. 16 Texas, meanwhile, finished third to Colorado and Oklahoma State at the Big 12 Championships, where Texas A&M placed fifth. It was the Aggies best finish since 2003 when they finished third.
Texas A&M women's squad consists of Sarah Balfour, Kirsten Brown, Alie Cornell, Kasey McNorton, Christina Munoz, Elizabeth Slaughter and Brenna Williamson. The Aggies are ranked fourth in the region behind Arkansas, Rice, and Baylor. The rest of the top 10 in the South Central region includes Texas, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Lamar, SMU, Arkansas-Little Rock and SFA.
Arkansas, ranked No. 10 in the nation, and No. 16 Rice recently claimed SEC and Conference USA team titles, respectively, while Baylor finished fourth at the Big 12.
Last season the Aggies had two individual qualifiers for the NCAA meet in Brian McKinstry and Merideth Snow. The A&M women just missed an automatic team berth when they placed third overall with 104 points behind Arkansas (30) and Baylor (83).
The previous visit to Fayetteville had Texas A&M men running in the Chile Pepper Festival over 10,000 meters and they were led by Hebert's clocking of 30:44 which placed him 19th.
Hebert will face a challenge from international runners contending for individual berths into the NCAA Championships. Two of the competitors, Lamar's Francis Kasagule and TCU's Festus Kigen, raced against Hebert at Baylor and Texas A&M earlier this season.
Shadrack Songok of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi won the Chile Pepper Festival in 29:23 while Kigen placed 10th in 30:15. LSU's Joeseph Simichimba will be another contender after he placed 14th at the Arkansas meet in 30:28.
Two seasons ago Balfour advanced to the NCAA Championship meet as a freshman when she placed eighth at the regional meet. After battling through a leg injury her sophomore year, Balfour has regained her form and could be in contention again for the NCAA meet.
Balfour placed 10th at the Chile Pepper Festival, running a personal best 21:14. Other contenders for an individual NCAA berth include SMU's Silje Fjortoft, who placed fourth at Arkansas in 20:52; Lamar's duo of Renee Graham, third at last year's regional, and Clerc Koenck, the Southland Conference winner in 20:49; along with Baylor's Lauren Hagan, recently 10th in the Big 12.
On her last visit to Fayetteville, Munoz placed 23rd in the talented field with a time of 21:45 to place as the No. 2 Aggie for her fourth consecutive race. Then at the conference meet Munoz earned All-Big 12 honors by placing 11th and leading the Aggie squad with a time of 21:19. Another solid performance during the regional race could have Munoz in contention as well.