COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M’s men finished third while the women were fourth in team scoring as the Aggies hosted the NCAA South Central Region meet on the Dale Watts cross country course Friday morning.
A saturated course, combined with temperatures in the low 50s and a gusting wind, greeted the runners as they bid for qualifying positions to the NCAA Championships. The top two teams and the top four individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the national meet.
“We wanted to be in the top two on the men’s side, that’s the goal,” noted Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. “On the women’s side it was their best team race of the year. So, it’s great seeing things coming together and finishing the cross country season strongly.”
Arkansas men claimed a sixth consecutive men’s title, scoring 59 points, as Texas finished as runner-up for the sixth straight year with a tally of 76 points. The Aggies totaled 135 points in third place, repeating their finish from last season.
Racing over the 10,000m course Texas A&M’s Brandt Preston (32:28.4) and Jacob Perry (32:30.4) earned All-Region honors in the men’s race as they placed 22nd and 23rd to lead the team.
“It was super cold, super wet and very muddy,” said Preston. “Racing in the mud is hard and the times are slower due to the mud, but it was fun though. Third place isn’t exactly what we wanted, but we were there and put ourselves in position to be successful. It just didn’t work out in the end like we wanted it to.”
Zephyr Seagraves (32:49.4) finished 29th while freshman Gavin Hoffpauir (32:56.5) placed 32nd. The fifth Aggie was Noah Jacobs (33:03.3) in 36th.
“We put ourselves in position to battle for a top two position, but we’re not quite there yet,” stated McRaven. “We had two guys among the top 25 with Brandt and Jacob, who both earned their first All-Region.”
Jon Bishop (33:11.4), who missed the previous two meets with a staph infection, finished as the sixth runner for A&M as he placed 43rd. Freshman Wes McPhail (33:37.3) completed the Aggie squad, placing 59th.
“It was a real positive for our group to have Jon back racing,” said McRaven. “Missing as much time as he missed, he gave it a shot. He’s disappointed in his race, obviously, since he placed fourth last year and qualified for the NCAA Championships. He battled.”
The remainder of the top 10 men’s teams included Rice (141), North Texas (162), UT Rio Grande Valley (183), Incarnate Word (194), UT Arlington (237), Lamar (242) and Central Arkansas (260).
The top four finishers in the men’s race secured the individual NCAA qualifying positions. Lamar’s Jamie Crowe won the race in 31:36.3 over Abraham Chirchir of UTRGV (31:40.4), Florian Lussy of North Texas (31:41.6) and Tulane’s Emmanual Rotich (31:41.7), the two-time defending champion.
With a 1-2-3-4-11 finish, Arkansas captured an eighth consecutive women’s team title with 21 points, their lowest score in the recent run of titles, and the best score by any team over the past 18 years. The Razorbacks previous low score was 29 in 2002 and 2014.
Texas scored 99 points to repeat as runner-up while Texas State finished third with 122 points, producing its highest ever region finish. The Aggies scored 154 points to place fourth, improving upon a sixth-place effort in 2017.
Kelsie Warren led Texas A&M as she earned an All-Region honor in placing 24th in 21:34.1 with freshman Rachel Bernardo finishing 26th as she clocked 21:36.4. The next tandem of Aggies included Ashley Driscoll (21:41.8) and freshman Carrie Fish (21:42.3) as they were 30th and 31st.
The fifth runner for A&M was Julia Black (22:14.6), the third freshman among the top five, as she placed 50th. Lizette Chapa (22:18.6) and Valarie Bradley (22:24.8) completed the Aggie squad of seven runners, placing 52nd and 56th.
“Kelsie kind of had a bit of a rough start with a calf cramp early in the race,” said McRaven. “She battled back to get All-Region. We had a tight one through five spread, so that was good. Rachel had a great effort and she’s developing into a team leader. It was great to see her stick her nose in there and just run tough.”
Warren added: “I’m so proud of what our team has done this year and I think this is our best race this season. Even given the conditions I think we just ran hard. It was cold, but once we started warming up and we raced in a pack of people you didn’t feel the wind as much in our face.”
The women’s top 10 teams also included Rice (162), SMU (166), Baylor (248), LSU (262), UT Rio Grande Valley (280) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (290).
Razorback freshman Katrina Robinson won the 6,000m race in 20:20.3 with teammates Taylor Werner (20:29.0), Lauren Gregory (20:29.0) and Carina Viljoen (20:33.9) following to occupy the top four places.
SMU’s Hannah Miller (20:36.6) finished fifth to claim the first NCAA individual qualifier position and the other three positions went to fifth-place Allyson Girard of A&M-Corpus Christi (20:41.5), eighth-place Svenja Ojstersek of SMU (20:51.8) and 10th-place Lourdes Vivas de Lorenzi of Rice (20:56.0).
The NCAA Championships will be hosted in Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday, November 17.