FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas – Texas A&M’s Kelsie Warren and Ashley Driscoll advanced to the NCAA Championship as the men’s and women’s cross country team finished third at the 2019 NCAA South Central Regional Championship Friday at Agri Park.
“I thought we had some great efforts today on both sides," Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven said. "Four runners earned all-region honors and a couple just missed out. To have two athletes, and possibly three, qualify for nationals is a good day. On the other hand, we’re never content with third place team finishes when the top two are the auto qualifier."
Warren, a senior from College Station, paced the Aggies with a 20:54.2 finish over the 6,000 meter course to place seventh and earn All-Region honors for the second straight year. The top-10 finish was the highest of her career at the NCAA Regionals as she advanced to the NCAA Championship, for the first time.
Seconds after Warren crossed the finish line, Driscoll clocked in at 21:01.0 to place 11th and punch her ticket to Terra Haute, Indiana for the Championship. Driscoll, a senior for Round Rock, Texas, garnered All-Region honors for the first time in her collegiate career.
“I thought Kelsie and Ashley did what they have been doing all year,” McRaven added. “In a high stakes competition like this, which is easier said than done so I am incredibly proud of how they kept their cool and executed their races. Now comes the fun stuff, the national meet.”
As a team, the Aggies finished third behind Arkansas (15) and Texas (63) with 106 points. Rounding out the top-5 were Texas-Rio Grande Valley (164) and Rice (180).
“For our third through sixth runners to finish 27th through 38th and our seventh in 49th is a testament to our depth,” McRaven said.
Rounding out the scoring for the Maroon & White were Abbey Santoro (22:02.2, 27th), Julia Black (22:07.9, 29th) and Ashton Hutcherson (22:15.1, 36th). Also competing for the Aggies were Megan Hopper (22:16.2, 38th) and Rachel Bernardo (22:31.5, 49th).
Sophomore Eric Casarez posted a top-10 finish for the men’s team as he raced the 10,000 meter course in 30:28.8 to finish ninth and earn All-Region honors. Just over a second later, Jon Bishop finished 11th in a time of 30:30.9 to join Casarez on the All-Region team.
“Eric has really stepped in and raced like a veteran this year,” McRaven added. “It looks like his ninth place finish should give him a great shot at an at-large bid to nationals. He and Jon did a great job of setting the tone for us today.”
The Texas A&M men have finished third in the region meet four times in the past five seasons, trailing Texas (39) and Arkansas (67) in the team standing with 128 points. Rounding out the top-5 were Lamar (134) and Rice (202).
Runners that also factored into the team score for the Aggies were Zephyr Seagraves (31:14.9, 27th), Gavin Hoffpauir (31:22.3, 34th) and Wes McPhail (31:56.1, 57th). Also competing for the A&M men were Johnathon Blaine (32:03.9, 64th) and Harrison Tillman (32:43.9, 93rd).
“Zephyr was a little off where he was at the SEC meet, but he has made so much progress over the last year it is amazing,” McRaven said. “Gavin was right on Zephyr’s tail for a lot of the 2nd half of the race.”
Warren and Driscoll will take on the field at the NCAA Championship on Nov. 23 at the Gibson Championship Course.
“We’ll send a few individuals to nationals and then get back to the drawing board for both the coming track season and next year’s cross country season,” added McRaven.