This Saturday morning, the same day as our high school state championship meet, another large championship meet was held, The NCAA Southeast Regional Championship. Playing host to this meet was the University of Louisville at Tom Sawyer Park in Louisville, Kentucky. This meet could not have had more perfect running weather as it was in the low 50s throughout the competition. For those who have not been to E.P Sawyer Park, it is a must see venue for XC runners being a very flat and fast course with beautiful scenery throughout.
First for the meet, was the men’s ten kilometer race, featuring two five thousand meter loops around the park. This race was a very exciting one to watch for even the most novice cross country aficionado. This race started out with a pack of about fifty runners and stayed that way until about 5k into the race. After the 5k mark it still was a very bunched-up-race with about twenty runners still very much in contention to win it. Despite being a very exciting race throughout, the highlight of this race was without a doubt the finish because it became a sprint to the finish between Ryan Hill, a senior from N.C State, and Paul Chelimo a sophomore from UNC Greensboro. At the finish it was Chelimo who made a move first and took the lead with about two hundred meters to go with Hill answering in dominating fashion to demolish Chelimo’s spirit with only forth meters to go. At the wire Hill let out a nice fist pump as he looked back and won the race in 29:48. Chelimo finished in 29:52 with Mark Amirault, a transfer from Princton to UVA, in third with a time of 29:58.
For the male team race it was all N.C. State winning with 68 points. The next five places were extremely close, so close that the announcer was not allowd to announce them until they were made final. In second and receiving the second automatic bid to nationals was Eastern Kentucky with 139 points. Third and vying for an at-large bid for nationals was the Tribe of William and Mary with 152 points. In fourth and fifth separated by one point were the Hokies of VaTech (161) and the Tarheels of North Carolina(162). Per the usual NCAA qualification process, the top two teams received automatic bids with thirteen at large bids offered to any thirteen teams out of all the regions outside of the top two.
Next up for the action was the women’s 6k race going just once around a 6k loop. Only two words need to be said about this race: Kendra Schaaf. Schaaf dominated the race from the start to finish not relinquishing the lead once. Schaaf is a senior transfer to North Carolina and finished in a time of 19:52. In second was Lydia Kosgei of Eastern Kentucky who came from fourth at the 3k to finish in second in a time of 20:05. In third was Morgane Gay, a senior from UVA, finishing in 20:17. Completing the top four was Marion Kandie of Western Kentucky finishing in 20:21.
For the female team race it was Coach Vigilanti’s UVA Lady Cavaliers brining home the title with 107 points. In second and third were cross-state rivals N.C. State (113) and UNC (133) with the Tigers of Clemson completing the top four teams with 147 points.
E.P. “Tom” Sawyer park, like always, provided a great meet for these great athletes as well as provided a spectator friendly venue for this regional championship. As any athlete or fan should be, I am not only excited for nationals this year, but more importantly, am excited for NCAA XC Nationals next year at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer park bringing another NCAA championship back to the Bluegrass State.