FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas -- The Texas A&M cross country teams travel to Arkansas to compete in the 2019 NCAA South Central Regional Championship Friday at Agri Park in Fayetteville, with the women's 6,000m race at 11 a.m. followed by the men's 10,000m race at noon.
At stake are automatic berths to the NCAA Championship field as the top two teams in each race advance along with the top four individuals not associated with a qualifying team. Each school in the meet compete with seven runners as the top five finishers from a school compile their team score.
"Our goal on both genders is to put ourselves in position to qualify to nationals," Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven said. "Both teams come in ranked third in the region and we need a top-two finish to guarantee a trip to Indiana."
Recent regional rankings for the South Central include Texas, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Lamar and Rice among the top five men's teams while the women's top five include Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Rice and Arkansas State.
The men's initial entrants for the regional are Levi Alexander, Juan Arcila, Jon Bishop, Jonathan Blaine, Eric Casarez, Colton Colonna, Gavin Hoffpauir, Jackson Jett, Wes McPhail, Joel Potter, Zephyr Seagraves and Harrison Tillman.
“On the men’s side we had a great 1-2-3 punch at the SEC meet with Bishop, Casarez and Seagraves,” McRaven added. “All three of those guys are capable of finishing in the top-10 and qualifying individually to nationals. We need our four and five guys to close the gap on our top-three. Wes McPhail has shown the ability to do so as he has finished as high as our number-one and two guy for us this year. Gavin Hoffpauir has been a tough competitor for us and has championship experience. Johnathon Blaine has been the most improved guy in our line up and we’ll need him and Harrison Tillman to either move up or push the other guys.”
The Texas A&M men have finished third in the region meet three times in the past four seasons, including last year when Brandt Preston and Jacob Perry earned All-Region honors.
The women's initial entrants are Olivia Arriaza, Rachel Bernardo, Julia Black, Ashley Driscoll, Laura Fairchild, Carrie Fish, Megan Hopper, Ashton Hutcherson, Sarah Pia, Grace Plain, Abbey Santoro and Kelsie Warren.
“Kelsie and Ashley have been having a great fall and seem to get better every time out,” McRaven said. “Both are very capable of qualifying individually for nationals. The key for the team will be having our 3-4-5 runners finishing in the top-20 or 30. Hutcherson, Black, Santoro, Hopper and Bernardo are all capable of doing that. The challenge for them is to trust themselves, run their races and not allow the moment to get the best of them. We also have Carrie Fish, who is coming off an injury, as an alternate. She finished 31st last year in the regional and will be ready to go if she is needed.”
The Aggie women finished fourth last season at regionals as Warren earned All-Region honors while Bernardo finished 26th and Driscoll and Fish finished 30th and 31st, respectively.
Each team will select a set of seven runners per gender to compete in the South Central region meet during a technical meeting on Thursday evening.
Live results will be available for the meet through Flash Results. Additional meet information can be found at the NCAA South Central Region Championships central.
For more information on Texas A&M Cross Country including in-meet updates, follow @aggietrk on Twitter.