NC State Cross Country: Next Stop, Nationals
NC State’s men’s and women’s cross country teams achieved the second of their three team goals for the 2006 season Saturday by winning the NCAA Southeast Regionals at Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky.
By winning the regional, the Wolfpack qualifies as a team for the NCAA Championships, which will be held November 20 at Terre Haute, Ind.
For the third consecutive race, Wolfpack senior Julia Lucas won the individual race on the women’s side. Lucas won the ACC Championships two weeks ago, and the NCAA Pre-Nationals two weeks prior to that. Lucas ran the 6k course in a time of 20:15.60, more than seven seconds ahead of runner-up Michelle Sikes of Wake Forest.
NC State freshman Bona Jones, the ACC Freshman of the Year, continued her standout season by placing fifth at 20:32.25, and sophomore Brittany Tinsley gave the Pack three runners in the top 10 with a 10th-place finish in a time of 20:57.65. Junior Angelina Blackmon finished 21st overall and scored at 20th in the team standings with a time of 21:22.05.
The biggest and arguably the most pleasantly surprising news of the afternoon for the Wolfpack women was the strong finish of redshirt-junior Ann Wheatley, who finished 26th overall and scored 25th in the team race in a time of 21:30.5, giving NC State its tightest gap from 1-5 of the season at a minute and 15 seconds.
NC State won the women’s regional with a team score of 61. ACC rival Duke finished second with 70 points to claim the other automatic team berth from the regional. Virginia Tech finished third with 83 points, and Virginia fourth with 109.
As usual, the NC State men ran a tight race 1-5, with John Crews finishing sixth in the 10k race at 23:48.7. Stephen Furst was ninth at 23:54.05, Chris Kollar 13th at 23:56.2, Bryce Ruiz 17th at 24:13.15 and Tibor Vegh 19th at 24:12.2, a gap from one through five of just 24 seconds. Fredy Torres was 24th at 24:31.8, and Gavin Coombs was 39th at 24:41.95. Ruiz is a senior, Coombs a sophomore. The rest of the Wolfpack’s runners in the regional are juniors.
NC State ran without junior Wes Smith, the team’s top finisher at the ACC Championships. Smith was sick and unable to make the trip.
The men took first place with a team score of 64 points, followed closely by William & Mary, the 2005 regional winner, with 70. Those two won the automatic team berths to the NCAA Championships. Host Louisville was third with 80 points, followed by Virginia with 131 and Clemson with 201.