Cross Country Runs At NCAA Championships Monday
(Note: For the first time, the NCAA Cross Country Championships will be available on cable television on CSTV. The broadcast will be available live on the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association website at http://ustfccca.cstv.com)
The 2007 cross country season comes to an end Monday at the NCAA Cross Country Championships at Terre Haute, Ind. For NC State, the annual goal of a top 10 national finish will be at stake.
The Wolfpack men and women both missed on the first of their three annual goals, which is winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. They both made good on goal No. 2, however, which is to qualify as teams for the NCAA Championships. Both won the NCAA Southeast Regional on Nov. 10 to advance to the national meet.
A strong finish nationally will depend on different factors for each team. The Wolfpack men, with a deep and experienced lineup, have been remarkably consistent from week to week. Fifth-year seniors Wesley Smith, John Crews, Tibor Vegh, Stephen Furst and Chris Kollar have performed like fifth-year seniors from the start of the season. Redshirt-juniors Gavin Coombs and Fredy Torres, and redshirt-sophomore John Martinez make the Wolfpack lineup incredibly deep.
NC State has run so well this season that only a near-perfect race by Virginia stood in the way of the men winning their second ACC championship in a row. The Wolfpack actually ran better on average than in 2006, when they won the ACC meet by 49 points.
Two weeks later at the regional meet, NC State defeated Big East champion and race host Louisville, ACC champion Virginia, and Colonial Athletic Association champion William & Mary. The Wolfpack’s margin of victory was deceptively small, thanks to Smith having a shoelace come undone midway through the race.
“This group has really been consistent all season,” men’s head coach Rollie Geiger said. “In any given race, any one of them could run first for us. As a group, they run together extremely well, which is what we preach. You would think that with a group like this that two or three of them would drop their times, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t happen Monday. They’ve run this course before and run it well.”
For the women, the issue is closing the gap between the team’s fourth runner and its fifth. From one through four, the Wolfpack is running as well as it has all season.
Senior Angelina Blackman and junior Brittany Tinsley have been consistently excellent all season. Sophomore Bona Jones, an All-American a year ago, ran her best race of the season at the NCAA Southeast Regional and appears to be rounding into top form at exactly the right time. Freshman Colleen Wetherbee, the ACC’s Freshman of the Year on the women’s side, has gotten noticeably stronger from race to race, earning all-region honors a week ago at Louisville.
The fifth runner most likely will come from a capable group that includes senior Anne Wheatly, junior Magin Kebert and sophomore Kara McKenna.
“We’re definitely running stronger one through four than at any time this season,” women’s coach Laurie Henes said. “Bona and Colleen really stepped it up at regionals. Now it’s a matter of closing that gap.”