NEW ORLEANS – For the first time in program history, the Eastern Kentucky University men’s cross country team is the top-ranked squad in the Southeast Region.
By virtue of their fifth-place finish at the loaded Notre Dame Invitational this weekend, the Colonels jumped North Carolina State to take the top spot in the most recent U.S Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) regional poll, released on Monday. In doing so, EKU dethroned an N.C. State team that had been ranked No. 1 in the region for 15 straight weeks dating back to 2010.
The EKU men are now ranked ahead of a host of ACC, SEC and Big East teams, including N.C. State (No. 4), Virginia (No. 3), Duke (No. 5), North Carolina (No. 6), Virginia Tech (No. 7), Louisville (No. 8) and Kentucky (No. 15).
The top two teams at the NCAA Southeast Region Championships, held in Charlotte, N.C. this year, will automatically advance to the NCAA Championships, held at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park in Louisville this year on Nov. 17.
EKU put on a strong show this weekend in South Bend. The Colonels, who are currently ranked No. 25 in the country, defeated several teams ranked ahead of them in the national poll, including N.C. State (No. 11), Texas A&M (No. 14) and New Mexico (No. 21), as well as other ranked teams such as Michigan (No. 26) and Washington State (No. 29).
EKU placed three runners in the race’s top-20. Junior Soufiane Bouchikhi returned to action after missing the Vanderbilt Commodore Classic two weeks ago, finishing seventh out of 163 competitors and covering the five-mile course in 23:53. Sophomore Ben Toroitich, meanwhile, was not far behind in 11th-place in a time of 23:58, while fellow sophomore Thijs Nijhuis took 20th-place in 24:11. Juniors Yosi Goasdoue (56th / 24:35) and Wade Meddles (73rd / 24:43) rounded out the Colonels’ top-five.
On top of that, EKU’s ‘B’ team, led by senior Daniel Jones, defeated 46 teams to win the blue race at the Greater Louisville Classic on Saturday afternoon.
The updated national poll will be released tomorrow morning.
The EKU men return to action two weekends from now, Friday, Oct. 13, at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, hosted by the top-ranked team in the country, the Wisconsin Badgers.