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Texas A&M men achieve second place in SEC Championships

COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M recorded its highest men’s finish in the SEC Cross Country Championships with a runner-up performance Friday on the Dale Watts course led by Cameron Villarreal‘s eighth-place effort.

The Aggies scored 98 points to place second to Arkansas’ 25 as the Razorbacks, ranked No. 8 nationally, captured a sixth consecutive title with Mississippi, the 2014 SEC runner-up, in third with 122 points. It was the 23rd league title in cross country for Arkansas among the 25 they have contested since joining the conference in 1991.

Placing second was a significant achievement for Texas A&M, who tied for third in its first SEC cross country meet in 2012 and have placed eighth the past two years.

“For this group to run what they did today is special,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “This sport is about doing it on one day and then maybe you get another day. They have gone through some ups and downs this season, but they put it together here today and it proves a point to all of them that it takes a team effort. Coach Wendel McRaven got them ready to run today.”

Aggie assistant coach Wendel McRaven added: “They did a nice job. We came into the meet feeling that if we ran well we could get second. I told them before the race, let’s go for it, because the worst we could do if we blew up was fifth. They did a nice job to jump from eighth a year ago. We made some nice progress with three guys who are all-SEC.”

A&M junior Karis Jochen finished fifth in the women’s race, earning first team All-SEC honors, as the Aggie women placed ninth in team scoring with 249 points. A&M’s Arin Rice, who normally finishes as the second Aggie runner, did not complete the race.

“Karis did a great job,” said McRaven. “She was competing with some of the best women in the country, and if she didn’t try and go with the top two, if she had run more conservatively, she would have been third. But she wanted to win and she went for it and a couple people caught her at the end.”

Arkansas claimed a third consecutive team title as senior Dominique Scott won her third consecutive individual title. The No. 4 Razorbacks scored 38 points for the victory over No. 13 Mississippi State (95) and No. 26 Vanderbilt (112).

Arkansas won its 16th conference title in cross country as Scott becomes the fourth female in the SEC to win three cross country league titles, the third to capture them consecutively and the only one to be part of three winning teams in the process.

The Dale Watts course held up well amid the rain that fell on race day after receiving a heavy dose of rain the previous weekend.

With the men racing first and departing the starting line following a cannon shot, Alabama’s Antibahs Kosgei led the field 114 finishers throughout the race. Kosgei, a junior with the Crimson Tide, reached the 2k split at 5:50 and passed 5,600 meters at 16:33. He held a one second lead over the Arkansas tandem of Frankline Tonui and Christian Heymsfield.

In winning the 8,000-meter men’s race with a time of 23:24.1, Kosgei was the first runner from Alabama to win the SEC title since 2007 (Emmanuel Bor).

Heymesfield finished second in 23:25.2 with Tonui third at 23:32.4. Arkansas had another pair of runners place fifth and sixth with the tandem of Alex George (23:36.2) and Austen Dalquist (23:36.2). Another Razorback duo, Gabe Gonzales (23:47.6) and Jack Bruce (23:49.0), finished ninth and 10th.

The Aggie men kept improving their team place as the race progressed. At the 2k split they were in seventh place and moved to fourth at the 5,600m split. In the final stages of the race A&M moved ahead of Kentucky and Mississippi to claim the runner-up position.

Finishing behind the Aggies in the team score were Mississippi (122), Kentucky (129), Georgia (142), Missouri (146) and Florida (170).

As Villarreal placed among the top 10 with an eighth-place effort, running 23:43.6, he was followed by teammates Alex Riba (23:54.2) and Austin Wells (23:56.6), who finished 13th and 14th. All three earned second team All-SEC honors.

“We’re putting everything together pretty well right now,” stated Villarreal. “Our training has been tough this year. We have put in a lot of volume, a lot of work. We are like a family. It’s just fun getting to run together and when we do well there’s really nothing better than that. We’re not resting on our laurels, we want to be a national caliber team and our focus now is on regionals. I think we can do well there and the pieces are falling together.

“I was a little bit back when the lead group split away from the pack, so I just tried to recover from that and move up as best I could. At the end I just tried to use a bit of my 1500-meter speed. I kicked a little early. I felt going in that we are a quality team and should be contending for the top spots, so it’s not a surprise to finish second.”

Christian Farris finished as the fourth Aggie, clocking 24:17.5 to place 23rd, as Ryan Teel rounded out the A&M team score as the fifth Aggie, posting a 24:47.9 in 41st place. Colin Stoeber was just a couple strides behind Teel as the sixth A&M runner, placing 42nd in 24:48.2

The rest of the Aggie crew included Elliott Farris (59th – 25:01.2), Juan Uribe (87th – 25:49.4), Aaron Murray(91st – 25:52.3) and Jacob Perry (105th – 26:28.7).

Jochen challenged the leaders early, matching the 6:36 split at 2k of Scott while crossing the 4,119m split in 13:43 along with Scott, Chelsea Blaase of Tennessee and Alabama’s Rachael Reddy.

In the final stages of the 6,000-meter race, Scott pulled away to post a winning time of 19:23.5 and better the field of 135 finishers by 17 seconds with Blaase taking second in 19:40.9. A pair of freshmen, Vanderbilt’s Caroline Pietrzyk (19:54.0) and Auburn’s Brenda Kigen (19:58.1), placed third and fourth.

Jochen ran 19:59.2 for fifth place as Kaitlin Flattman of Arkansas (20:00.7) and Alabama’s Katelyn Greenleaf (20:06.9) were sixth and seventh.

“I wasn’t happy with how I finished,” noted Jochen. “I expected myself to do a lot better but they’re good and it was good to race against the competition. I want to get stronger the next two weeks, build on that. It’s good to get that reminder that this is not an easy sport, and you need to be consistent every day.”

Kelsey Persyn became the second Aggie finisher as she posted a time of 21:21.8 for 51st place. Then Haley Deakins placed 70th in 21:41.8 as the third A&M runner. Rounding out the team score were Katie Watson(21:46.8) and Katie Pia (21:54.0) as they finished 79th and 84th.

Next to finish for the Aggies, in 89th and 90th place, were Kaitlin Tanner (22:02.2) and Emily Willingham(22:02.7) as the sixth and seventh runners for A&M. The rest of the crew included Hannah Campell (97th – 22:08.6), Laura Craig (109th – 22:34.7), Devin Norton (116th – 22:44.8), and Lauren Fontana (129th – 23:32.7).

SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS – Dale Watts Course – October 30, 2015

Team Scores
Men: 1. Arkansas 25; 2. Texas A&M 98; 3. Mississippi 122; 4. Kentucky 129; 5. Georgia 142; 6. Missouri 146; 7. Florida 170; 8. Auburn 198; 9. Alabama 203; 10. Mississippi State 280; 11. Tennessee 301; 12. LSU 322; 13. Vanderbilt 381.

Women: 1. Arkansas 38; 2. Mississippi State 98; 3. Vanderbilt 112; 4. Alabama 143; 5. Mississippi 147; 6. Auburn164; 7. Florida 183; 8. Missouri 228; 9. Texas A&M 249; 10. Georgia 267; 11. Tennessee 296; 12. Kentucky 297; 13. South Carolina 352; 14. LSU 436.

Men’s First-Team All-SEC
Antibahs Kosgei, Alabama
Christian Heymsfield, Arkansas
Frankline Tonui, Arkansas
Jacob Thomson, Kentucky
Alex George, Arkansas
Austen Dalquist, Arkansas
Jimmy Clark, Florida

Men’s Second-Team All-SEC
Cameron Villarreal, Texas A&M
Gabe Gonzales, Arkansas
Jack Bruce, Arkansas
Eddie Garcia, Florida
Zack Sims, Georgia
Alex Riba, Texas A&M
Austin Wells, Texas A&M

Men’s SEC All-Freshman Team
Dajour Braxton, LSU
Reilly Shaw, Auburn
Ben Young, Kentucky
Brandon Harvey, Ole Miss
Jack Guyton, Florida
Zach Long, Tennessee
Cameron Griffith, Florida

Women’s First-Team All-SEC
Dominique Scott, Arkansas
Chelsea Blaase, Tennessee
Caroline Pietrzyk, Vanderbilt
Brenda Kigen, Auburn
Karis Jochen, Texas A&M
Kaitlin Flattmann, Arkansas
Katelyn Greenleaf, Alabama

Women’s Second-Team All-SEC
Devin Clark, Arkansas
Marta Freitas, Mississippi State
Mary Alex England, Ole Miss
Valerie Reina, Arkansas
Regan Ward, Arkansas
Kelsey Schrader, Arkansas
Karissa Schweizer, Missouri

Women’s SEC All-Freshman Team
Caroline Pietrzyk, Vanderbilt
Brenda Kigen, Auburn
Devin Clark, Arkansas
Maria Larsen, Florida
Rachael Reddy, Alabama
Sydney Brown, Arkansas
Elisabeth Bergh, Florida

SEC Championships – Men’s Winner
Antibahs Kosgei, Alabama: “I’m so happy, because I’ve been training for this race. I knew I could win because in my first race in Memphis I was the first one and in Oklahoma I came in ninth, but I told myself then I’m winning the SEC. I finished second in the Crimson Classic and I told coach I need to train harder to prepare for the SEC.

“Coach told me I have to win. So each week when there was a competition I would check the times of the runners in the conference. I knew I had some of the faster times. Coming into the SEC meet I knew I was faster than the other guys. I knew I was going to win this race.

(Weather): “It affected me a little bit because at times I was sliding and I almost fell down.

“I moved fast at the start of the race, but by the third mile I tried to relax myself since I knew the finish was going to be tough. With 3,000 meters to go and with a pair of runners following me I told myself I have to see what can I do with these two guys to stay ahead of them to the finish.

SEC Championships – Women’s Winner
Dominique Scott, Arkansas: “I felt so good during the race, I just knew today was going to be a good day. Having crossed the line and won a third title actually kind of feels surreal.

(Weather): “Rain, sunshine, wind, whatever the conditions, it’s the same for everyone. I knew it was maybe going to be a little tougher mentally. Your feet were going to get wet and your legs were going to get a bit muddy, but strategy was still the same. Run controlled and pull my Hogs as far along as I could. When I was getting a little bit too antsy I would start to pull away. I kind of had to hold myself back a little bit today since I was feeling really good, but I knew I should probably wait until a mile to go.

(Winning third title) “It’s a really cool feeling, but even more important the Razorbacks won again today. That’s three times in a row. We’re such a young team I think it was such a special day and I think it just shows how good this young team is. Even when I leave this year the Razorbacks are going to continue the winning streak.

Story courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics

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Posted by on Oct 30 2015. Filed under Sports.

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