WACO – Texas A&M women tied for second at the South Central region meet on Friday while the Aggie men finished seventh on the Cottonwood Creek golf course as Isaac Spencer and Hillary Montgomery each advanced to the NCAA Championships.
Montgomery and Spencer each qualified individually for the national meet as they were among the top four finishers not part of an advancing team.
“I tried to be relaxed during the race and not psyche myself out thinking about qualifying for nationals,” noted Spencer. “I wanted to have fun while I was out here and then come race time I kept my eyes open to see where other runners were at. I thought this was one of my better, if not the best, cross country race I’ve had since I’ve been at A&M.”
Montgomery added: “Qualifying for nationals is an awesome accomplishment. It’s a goal I set at the beginning of this season. We’re waiting to hear if the team qualifies as well and that’s the most important thing.
“I’m so proud of the girls, we all battled today. Things didn’t go exactly as we planned, but we battled the whole way and pulled through to the end. It was very nerve-wracking to wait for the team scores to be announced and then to hear we tied with SMU was a bit heartbreaking.”
SMU and A&M each scored 116 points in the women’s race behind the winning total of 33 by Arkansas. Since only the top two teams automatically advance to the NCAA Championship field, a tie-breaker was utilized to determine the second place team from the South Central meet.
Based on the finish of the first five runners for each squad SMU claimed a 4-1 edge in the tie-breaker with the Aggies. It was close at each stage, with A&M holding a 6-12 advantage among the first finishers for each team. Then SMU claimed the next four spots over the Aggies with only a one or two place separation (21 to 22, 23 to 25, 28 to 29 and 32 to 34).
Now the Texas A&M women must await the 13 at-large selections to see if they will advance to the NCAA Championship field as a team.
“They ran well and finished strong to be in a position to tie for second place,” noted Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. “It’s been a ton of progress for these ladies. To go from where they were a year ago to where they’re at right now has been really phenomenal.
“Obviously, you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re waiting for an at-large bid. It was so close, and everybody is probably going through their head thinking of where they could have passed one more person. In the end you do the best you can and wait to find out if we get in as an at-large selection.”
Montgomery finished sixth in the women’s 6,000-meter race as she clocked a time of 20 minutes, 27.0 seconds. A strong start had Montgomery reaching the midway point of the race in 10:07 at 2.9k and splitting 16:57 at 5k.
“I definitely remembered the hard parts of the course from two years ago,” stated Montgomery. “Familiarity was really nice, it kind of gave me a feeling that I knew what to do throughout the course.”
Spencer recorded a time of 30:22.4 seconds on the 10,000-meter men’s course to place eighth overall and earn All-Region honors. After opening with an 8:55 for the first 2.9k, Spencer reached the halfway point of the race with a time of 14:56 at 5k. In the latter half of the race he split 24:21 at 7.9k and covered 9k in 27:23.
“As the season progressed Isaac has stepped into that leadership role with this group,” said McRaven. “I’m ecstatic with his race. He belongs at the NCAA Championship meet. He’s proven it in track and now he’s at the NCAA meet in cross country.”
Spencer added: “I really thought out how I was going to run this 10,000 meters and planned it really well. Some people come out here and say I’m just going to run a 10k and that’s not really how it should be. I thought about how I was going to run and I was ready for it.
“I felt strong at different points of the race and knew I could finish up pretty well. I would have been very disappointed if I didn’t make it to nationals as an individual.”
The Aggie women were in fifth place through 3,000 meters of the race and moved up to fourth by 5,000 meters, but still 31 points behind SMU. A strong finish over the final 1,000 meters enabled A&M to tie SMU.
Karis Jochen and Grace Fletcher were part of the All-Region team with Montgomery as they finished among the top 25. Jochen ran 21:13.6 for 22nd place while Fletcher placed 25th with a time of 21:22.1.
Amanda Jenkins claimed the fourth scoring position for the Aggies as she finished 29th in 21:26.9 while Gabby Salazar wrapped up the A&M scoring spots as the fifth Aggie runner, placing 34th with a clocking of 21:42.0. Katie Willard (64th) ran 22:26.7 as the sixth Aggie. Sophie Blake (77th) struggled late in the race to finish in 22:48.5 after she fell down a couple of times near the finish of the race.
“Montgomery had a great individual race and improved over her previous finishes at region. It was nice to see Karis and Grace both get All-Region honors with Hillary. Then our fourth and fifth runners really came to battle today and we needed that. For Jenkins and Salazar to close over the second half of the race the way they did was outstanding.”
Ryan Miller was the second Aggie finisher in the men’s race behind Spencer as he ran 31:40.0 to place 41st. Austin Wells, the first A&M freshman to complete the course, ran 32:06.7 to finish 53rd. Austin Geerts (32:14.4) and Cameron Villarreal (32:18.4) rounded out the Aggie team score, placing 56th and 59th. Another pair of freshman, Xavier Jimenez (32:31.3) and Ryan Teel (32:43.7), finished 68th and 78th in the field of 149 finishers.
“We’re really young on the men’s side and we can’t say that every year,” noted McRaven. “We can say we’re young this year, but can’t say that next season. They need to learn from this experience, I think they were disappointed with our overall team finish.
“While we had four freshmen among our seven runners, Arkansas and Texas had four seniors among their top seven. You can see the difference that makes for a team on this level.”
Marielle Hall of Texas (19:40.7) defended her region title over the Arkansas pair of Dominique Scott (20:04.6) and Shannon Klenke (20:13.9). Arkansas State’s Kristina Aubert (20:20.0) and Baylor’s Rachel Johnson (20:23.8) rounded out the top five.
The Razorback women first five runners all finished among the top 11 runners to produce a score of 33 points. Following the tie for second place at 116 points between SMU and Texas A&M were Texas (132), UTSA (154), Baylor (162) and Lamar (190).
The Arkansas tandem of Stanley Kebenei (29:41.3) and Kemoy Campbell (29:41.3) finished 1-2 for the Razorback men while the Texas duo of Ryan Dohner (29:52.7) and Craig Lutz (29:52.7) finished 3-4 while Lamar’s Matt Johnsen (29:59.7) placed fifth.
Arkansas scored 34 points to claim the men’s region title with Texas (37) just three points back while Lamar (110) placed third. The Aggies tally of 217 points had them in seventh place behind SFA (154), Rice (167) and North Texas (185).
SOUTH CENTRAL REGION, Waco, Texas – November 15, 2013
Women’s Teams: 1. Arkansas 33; 2. tie, SMU 116 & Texas A&M 116 (SMU won tie-breaker 4-1); 4. Texas 132; 5. UTSA 154; 6. Baylor 162; 7. Lamar 190; 8. Arkansas State 225; 9. North Texas 242; 10. Central Arkansas 244; 11. Rice 256; 12. Texas-Arlington 296; 13. Stephen F. Austin 336; 14. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 386; 15. Houston Baptist 431; 16. Houston 456; 17. LSU 473; 18. UL-Lafayette 492; 19. Tulane 509; 20. New Orleans 626.
Men’s Teams: 1. Arkansas 34; 2. Texas 37; 3. Lamar 110; 4. Stephen F. Austin 154; 5. Rice 167; 6. North Texas 185; 7. Texas A&M 217; 8. Texas-Arlington 221; 9. Baylor 239; 10. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 249; 11. Houston 271; 12. Central Arkansas 271; 13. Arkansas-Little Rock 317; 14. Sam Houston State 413; 15. Houston Baptist 417; 16. UL-Monroe 429; 17. LSU 449; 18. UTSA 454; 19. Arkansas State 483; 20. Tulane 607; 21. SE Louisiana 633.