Cross Country Runs Regionals Saturday
RALEIGH, N.C. After a second-place finish at the ACC Championships two weeks ago, the NC State women’s cross country team will attempt to qualify for a berth in the NCAA Championship meet Saturday at the NCAA Southeast Regional in Louisville, Ky.
The men’s race begins at 11 a.m., with the women’s race to follow at 12:15 p.m.. The regional will be held at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park. The top two teams in each race qualify for the national race, which will be held November 19 at Terre Haute, Ind.
The NC State women enter the Southeast Regionals ranked No. 21 nationally. The Wolfpack is the top-ranked team in the field. The only other ranked team will be No. 26 North Carolina. Virginia Tech, which just missed the latest poll, also is in the field. ACC champion Florida State, ranked No. 3 nationally, is in the South Region. No. 24 Boston College is in the Northeast.
“Even without Florida State and BC in the field, this will be a tough race because North Carolina and Virginia Tech both are really good teams,” women’s coach Laurie Henes said. “We’re going to have to get good performances one through five.”
All-ACC junior Brittany Tinsley ran fifth at the ACC Championships and joins senior Angelina Blackmon (14th) as all-conference performers for the Wolfpack. Sophomore Bona Jones, an All-American as a freshman a year ago, will look to bounce backfrom a 33rd-place finish at the ACC meet, while true freshman Colleen Wetherbee and Marika Walker will look to continue their season-long improvement. Wetherbee was the ACC Freshman of the Year with her 19th-place finish in Charlottesville, and Walker came in 31st in the conference meet. Senior Anne Wheatly, junior Magin Kebert and sophomore Kara McKenna round out the lineup for the Pack.
The Wolfpack men face a much more crowded field this weekend. The Pack is one of four ranked men’s teams in the field, but since only the top two teams in each race will qualify for the NCAA Championships, two teams will see their seasons end on Saturday. The 11th-ranked Wolfpack men will be competing with No. 9 Virginia, No. 13 Louisville, and No. 25 William & Mary.
NC State stands second in the rankings among the four ranked teams in the field, but Louisville, just two spots behind the Pack in the latest poll, will be running its home course, an advantage not to be dismissed.
“This is really a challenging field for us,” Wolfpack men’s coach Rollie Geiger said. “Virginia just beat us in the ACC Championships two weeks ago, so we know how capable they are. Louisville has a great team and they’re at home. They know that course and that’s an advantage. William & Mary quallified for nationals last year. So it’s not going to be easy.”
NC State had seven runners earn All-ACC at the ACC Championships on October 27, and still finished seven points behind the Cavaliers. The Wolfpack’s average time per runner was nearly five seconds faster on the same course than in the 2006 conference meet, when the Pack won the ACC championship by a whopping 49 points. That’s an indication of how well Virginia ran in capturing this year’s championship.
Still, despite the difficult field, NC State features a lineup with eight current or former All-ACC runners and will pose a serious threat to Virginia, Louisville and William & Mary. ACC individual champion Chris Kollar and 2007 all-conference performers Wesley Smith, Stephen Furst, Gavin Coombs, John Crews and John Martinez lead an NC State lineup that also includes 2006 All-ACC performer Tibor Vegh and 2004 All-American Bobby Mack.