A&M's Henry Lelei named SEC Runner of the Year
"Henry is motivated to be the best he can be, but he's also very team oriented," said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. "He motivates others not only by his performances, but his care for them and the team's success."
Joining Lelei in receiving the SEC Cross Country Athlete of the Year honors as voted upon by the league coaches were women's winner Cally Macumber of Kentucky along with top freshmen Cale Wallace of Arkansas and Vanderbilt's Hannah Jumper. SEC Coach of the Year honors went to Chris Bucknam of Arkansas and Florida's Paul Spangler.
Lelei led the SEC in three different distances during the cross country season - 6,000 meters (16:25), five miles (23:26),and 8,000 meters (23:26) - and won the conference meet by 17.5 seconds with a time of 23:29.95 over a field that included the defending champion.
In addition, Lelei posted the fifth fastest winning time since the SEC went to an 8,000m distance in 1986 and bettered the previous course record of 24:10.60 at Vanderbilt's Percy Warner Park. His effort led the Aggie men to a third-place tie with Missouri.
Up next for Lelei is the defense of his NCAA South Central region title that he claimed a year ago in Waco as the Aggies placed second in team scoring to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. This time A&M, ranked No. 3 in the region, will travel to Fayetteville for the race on Friday, Nov. 9, to contend with No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Arkansas over a 10,000-meter distance.
"It's really good to see Texas A&M in the league," said Bucknam of Arkansas. "They bring a lot to the table in track and field. They are one of the elite programs in the country and I think they proved that with Henry Lelei winning the SEC cross country title. That sent a statement that they're going to be a factor in the SEC.
"It raises the bar for all of us and makes our conference better. It's a new era in the SEC. We're glad we came out on top in such a tough field and we know we have a lot of tough races ahead of us."