RICHMOND, Ky. – The Eastern Kentucky University men’s cross country team received an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships on Saturday. Women’s senior Ann Eason also received an individual at-large bid to the premiere event in all of college cross country, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 22, in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The EKU men’s team was one of the final teams to qualify for the national championships. The Colonels finished fourth at the NCAA Southeast Regional on Friday in Louisville, upsetting North Carolina State (ranked No. 2 in the region) in the process.
Four years ago, EKU had never sent a men’s team to the NCAA Championships. Now, the Colonels have qualified in four consecutive years.
This is the first year, however, that Eastern has made it as an at-large team. The Colonels auto-qualified by finishing second in the region in 2011 and 2012 and winning the region in 2013.
EKU will join an elite list of schools in Terre Haute. Automatic qualifiers include: Syracuse and Providence (Northeast Region), Villanova and Georgetown (Mid-Atlantic Region), Virginia and Furman (Southeast Region), Wisconsin and Michigan State (Great Lakes Region), Oklahoma State and Tulsa (Midwest Region), Mississippi and Florida State (South Region), Colorado and Northern Arizona (Mountain Region), Arkansas and Texas (South-Central Region) and Oregon and Portland (West Region).
EKU’s fellow at-large teams include: Iona, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, Michigan, BYU, Indiana, Southern Utah, Colorado State, UTEP, New Mexico and North Carolina.
Senior Ole Hesselbjerg was the catalyst of the Colonels’ run to the national championships. The Danish All-American placed fifth out of 231 runners at yesterday’s regional with a 10K time of 30:19.0. It was the first time Hesselbjerg had been EKU’s top runner at any race this season.
Sophomores Amos Kosgey and Ambrose Maritim rounded out Eastern's strong top-three at the meet. Kosgey placed 10th in 30:26.8 while Maritim was 16th in 30:35.8.
Senior Sean Vandermosten may have been the key to the Colonels’ fourth-place finish. The native Kentuckian made up 19 spots over the final 7,000 meters of the race to finish 31st overall with a time of 31:01.9. Sophomore Luka Ndungu was EKU’s fifth runner, placing 45th with a time of 31:16.8.
This is Eason’s first trip to Terre Haute. The senior All-American from Lexington, Kentucky is only the second EKU women and seventh OVC woman ever to qualify as individual for the NCAA Championships. EKU’s Lydia Kosgei was the last to do so back in 2011.
Eason placed 16th out of 257 runners at Friday’s Southeast Regional to punch her ticket to the dance. She covered the 6K course in 20:43.8 and earned All-Southeast Region honors for the first time in her decorated career.
Eason’s performance led the EKU women to a seventh-place finish at the regional. That is the women’s team’s best regional finish in at least the last 10 years.