16 Missourians qualify for NCAA Division I Cross Country Nationals
For the second straight year 15 athletes who competed at Missouri High Schools have qualified for the NCAA Division I Cross Country National Championships. In addition to those, another former Missouri college athlete qualified for his new school, to make it 16 athletes with Missouri ties to make it to college cross country’s biggest stage. Last year’s number of 15 was most likely a record, and it only lasted a year. And that number could still increase. With injuries or coaches’ decisions a few more Missourians could possibly move into the lineup for their teams for nationals on November 23 in Terre Haute, Indiana.
With the Division I Championship moving forward to the Saturday before Thanksgiving instead of the traditional Monday before Thanksgiving last year, again the nine regional championships were held on a Friday, November 15. The top two teams from regionals and the top four individuals not on a qualifying team earned automatic qualifying berths per gender. Saturday, another 13 at-large teams and two individuals secured at-large berths for both the men and women. The women ran six kilometer races, or close to it, while the men ran 10k races for the most part.
In the South Region, Florida State All-American and Nerinx Hall High School graduate Colleen Quigley captured the region title and led her Seminole squad to an easy victory. The junior edged 2013 USA World Championships team member Cory McGee, a Florida senior, to the finish line by a second and a half. FSU put three more in the top seven and totaled just 35 points to dominate the field, while Vanderbilt was second with 116 points. Quigley won the 5.85k race in 19:58.
Also in the South Region, Minnesota native and Florida State junior, Bryant Blahnik-who spent his first two years running for the University of Missouri, earned an individual berth to nationals with his eighth place finish along with an All-Region medal. The FSU men finished third in the region but came up short of an at-large bid. Blahnik finished the 9.73k race in 30:13.
The Northeast Region, held at New York’s famous Van Cortlandt Park, saw plenty of success for Missourians. The men’s race featured several Missouri Ivy-Leaguers, including two looking to qualify for their second straight NCAA Meet. Harvard senior and former Harrisonville High State Champ Maksim Korolev pulled away late for a seven-second victory in 30:11. Despite finishing sixth in the region, Harvard and the three teams ahead of them outside of the top two, all earned at-larger berths based on their success over other contending teams throughout the season. Columbia University junior and Westminster Christian Academy star Daniel Everett earned his first top-25 All-Region medal with a ninth-place finish. Everett was the second Lion across the line, in 30:28, as the team put five in the top 30 to take second place to winner Syracuse, to earn an automatic berth.
In the women’s 6k in the Bronx, Providence senior Emily Sisson led her Friars squad to the region title and automatic berth to Terre Haute. Sisson, the former Parkway Central All-American and former American High School 5k record holder, finished second to Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Agostino in 19:59. Sisson was just 11 seconds behind the 2012 national runner-up D’Agostino, the smallest margin of victory on the season for the undefeated senior. Providence put four in the top 11 and had five in the top 20 as the number two-ranked Friars cruised to victory, totaling 44 to Dartmouth’s 84.
At the Southeast Region in Virginia, Zach Herriott tried to extend his redshirt freshman season for Virginia. The State Champion for Kansas City’s Rockhurst High School spent his first year of college redshirting at Oklahoma, but when his coaches moved on to Iowa State, Herriott landed at Virginia. Herriott didn’t just extend his season, but earned All-Region honors in his first attempt, placing 18th and finishing as the third man on the Cavaliers squad that finished second.
The South Central Region had a pair of teammates and Missourians looking for their second and third national meet appearances. The duo are shooting to join Sisson and Quigley in earning a womens top-four national team trophy. Arkansas’ redshirt junior Diane Robison and junior Jessica (Jackson) Kamilos helped the Lady Razorbacks to a dominating win. The pair added more All-Region honors to their resume as Robison, a Parkway Central graduate, was 8th in 20:40 and Kamilos, a Neosho graduate, 16th in 20:56 for 6k. Arkansas scored just 33 points, going 2-3-8-9-11-16-20, taking seven of the 25 All-Region medals. SMU beat Texas A&M on a tie-breaker to earn the second national bid with 116 points, and leaving the Aggies at home after not earning an at-large berth.
Wisconsin hosted the Great Lakes Regional on the gorgeous Zimmer Championship course. After Amanda Behnke watched brother Adam run for Indiana as a graduate student at last Fall’s NCAA meet, the redshirt freshman will keep the family streak going as her Hoosiers squad earned one of the final at-large national bids. Behnke had an excellent race in the strong Great Lakes region, finishing 31st in 21:10, just 10 seconds behind the final All-Region position. The former Lutheran South High School standout was the fifth freshman overall and second finisher for the Hoosiers who placed sixth.
Iowa State hosted the Midwest Regional and six Missourians secured trips to nationals there. In the women’s race, Nixa native and UMKC’s All-American steepler Courtney Frerichs ran to a fourth place finish to guarantee her spot at nationals. Frerichs, a redshirt sophomore, finished the 6k in 20:24 for coach James Butler. A second and a half behind her was Mizzou freshman Kaitlyn Fischer. Fischer, a star at Herculaneum High School, will continue her phenomenal season at nationals after her sixth place finish. The Southeastern Conference freshman of the Year, clocked in at 20:26 to earn the third individual spot to nationals, making it two straight years for a University of Missouri runner to qualify for coaches Joe Lynn and Shaylee Mar.
On the men’s side, one individual and three members of a team qualified. A 13th place finish at last year’s regional earned Illinois’ Jannis Topfer a nationals berth. Friday, Topfer made sure he’d be making a return trip no matter how the team battle’s played out and which individual spots would earn trips to nationals. The former exchange student at St. Louis’ MICDS placed third in 30:31, less than four seconds behind the winner.
Thirteenth ranked Tulsa finished second behind #3 Oklahoma State to earn an automatic team bid. The Golden Hurricanes squad included Danny Thater, Tim Rackers, and Emmett Cookson. Kickapoo grad Thater earned his second straight All-Region medal with his 30:50 16th place, good enough for fourth on the team. For the second straight year SLUH alum Rackers just missed a medal. This year he finished in 31:08 for 29th place. Fellow SLUH grad Cookson was 113th to round out Tulsa’s squad.
Caleb Hoover and his #2 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks edged out #1 Colorado 61-69 to capture the Mountain Region title. A star at College Heights Christian and NAU junior, Hoover finished 60th in 31:00 and will make his third appearance at nationals for Coach Eric Heins, the former Southeast Missouri University cross country coach.
Just missing a trip to nationals was Hannah Richardson of Kansas. The Kirkwood High grad placed 11th at the Midwest Region and finished as the fifth individual not on a qualifying team. Richardson finished the 6k in 20:41, just seven seconds behind Oklahoma State’s Monika Juodeskaite for the final automatic berth.
The athletes will compete Saturday, November 23 at Terre Haute’s Lavern Gibson Championship Course at the Wabash Valley Family Center. The top four finishing teams will earn trophies while the top 40 finishers will earn United States Cross Country and Track and Field Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-American recognition. The top 25 finishers will earn USTFCCCA medals and top 15 NCAA individual trophies. The mens 10k will run at 11:00 a.m. CST (12:00pm Terre Haute time) while the women will run at 12:15 p.m. (1:15 ET).