MADISON, Wisconsin - Henry Lelei turned in another stellar performance for the Aggies as his time of 23 minutes, 26 seconds, over an 8,000-meter course placed the A&M senior fourth among a national caliber field at Friday's fourth annual Wisconsin adidas Invitational held on the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course.
Racing on a splendid day with the temperatures in the low 50s, the Aggie men placed 19th overall in a field of 45 teams. The A&M women finished 46th in team scoring.
Lelei was with the lead group throughout the race, clicking off mile splits at a 4:43 pace. Lelei covered the first mile in 4:53 as the lead group opened with a slower pace. Lelei then had splits of 9:06 and 14:56 at the 3,000-meter and 5,000-meter marks.
"It was a good field and the weather was great," said Lelei. "I enjoyed racing my friend from Arizona. I knew it was going to be a tough race against him and the field had a lot of ranked teams. It was a big challenge for us."
Arizona's tandem of Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu finished first and second, with times of 23:03 and 23:07. Iona's Matt Gillespie placed third in 23:25, just a second ahead of Lelei. Wisconsin's Maverick Darling took fifth in 23:28.
"Lelei is way ahead of where he was at this point last year, and he ended up placing ninth in the national meet," said Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. "That bodes well for him individually. A year ago he placed 26th at this meet, running a 24:16. Now he is fourth at 23:36, so that is a nice progression."
The men's team title went to Stanford with 135 points while Iona placed second at 145 and Oklahoma finished third with 166 points. The rest of the top 10 teams included Texas (267), Arkansas (308), Columbia (308), Michigan (338), New Mexico (350), Eastern Kentucky (379), and UCLA (381).
Texas A&M finished two places behind No. 1 Wisconsin (489) and just seven points behind Georgia's tally of 505 points for 18th place. Other teams placing behind the Aggies were Kansas (526), Arizona State (528), Washington (542), Minnesota (542), Illinois (545), Arizona (608), Notre Dame (615), Virginia (639), and Harvard (655).
"For the second year in a row this meet is one of the best regular season meets in the sport," stated McRaven. "To finish 19th, and be two places behind the No. 1 team (Wisconsin 17th) in the country, shows the quality and depth of this field. To run well you have to be ready and show up."
James Hodges was the next A&M runner to finish the course, running 24:08 to place 70th. Stephen Curry clocked 24:16 to finish 94th. C.J. Brown (24:33) and Micah Dettmer (24:38) rounded out the scoring for the Aggies as they placed 161st and 183rd. The sixth and seventh finishers for A&M were Isaac Spencer (195th - 24:44) and MacLean O'Donnell (277th - 25:42).
"I think we had some bright spots, Henry Lelei ran great," noted McRaven. "He stuck his nose in there and competed really up at the front of the pack. James Hodges continues to show a lot of progress, and Stephen Curry the same thing. I thought we were really solid through the first three runners."
Iowa State claimed the women's team title with 108 points with Stanford runner-up at 180 and Washington in third with 250 points. Cornell (262) and Providence (263) rounded out the top five teams.
Vanderbilt, the defending SEC champion, placed 18th with 486 points while Missouri finished 43rd with 1,060 points. The Aggies, with a team score of 1,150 points, placed ahead of Kansas (1187) and Nebraska (1400).
Amanda Jenkins led the Aggie squad for the second consecutive outing. She covered the women's 6,000-meter course in 21:08 to place 156th.
"I'm thankful I'm healthy and have been able to run well this season," noted Jenkins. "I tried my best and it happened to place me first among the team. I just try to gauge where I should be at different stages of the race. You kind of have a goal for yourself that you set each race, so I just try to stick with my goal. Then I use other people in the race to push me and see if I can do better."
Finishing behind Jenkins for the A&M squad were Hillary Montgomery (178th - 21:14), Shawn Dalglish (264th - 21:52), Gabby Salazar (275th - 21:59), and Grace Fletcher (277th - 22:00). Sophie Blake (22:08) and Tara Upshaw (23:13) were the sixth and seventh runners for the Aggies.
"With the women's team the only disappointing thing was in the way we raced today, it's not reflective of the progress we made," said McRaven. "Two weeks ago we could see that progress. Today we didn't get to see that continue, because we didn't race very well.
"That's part of the sport. In a field this size, with so many bodies out there, you have to stay engaged in racing. It's easy to be running pretty well and get discouraged when you see a lot of bodies in front of you. That is something we have to learn from with this fairly inexperienced group."
In the men's open division Collin Slattery placed 42nd with a time of 25:12 while Bobby Zeller posted a 26:46 to finish 95th.