FAYETTEVILLE – Texas A&M cross country seeks to continue its trend of advancing individuals to the NCAA Championship field from the South Central Region when they compete in the meet his Friday on Arkansas’ Agri Park complex.

With temperatures expected to be in the mid 30’s on race day, the Aggie women race over a 6,000-meter course starting at noon while the men cover a course of 10,000 meters at 1 p.m.

The top two teams and the first four finishers in the race not associated with those two teams will advance to the NCAA Championship race, which will be held Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Indiana.

A&M’s Isaac Spencer and Hillary Montgomery earned a berth into the NCAA race last season. Spencer placed eighth in the men’s race while Montgomery finished sixth in the women’s race. It marked the ninth consecutive year for the Aggies to advance an individual or team to the national championship race.

Since 2005, Texas A&M has qualified a men’s team to the NCAA Championship twice, in 2008 and 2011, while advancing 14 individuals. The Aggie women just missed earning a trip to nationals last season as they tied SMU for second place, but lost the tie-breaker in determining the advancing team.

As Spencer and Montgomery battle for another NCAA berth, they may have teammates join them on the journey to Indiana this season. Kara Jochen and Grace Fletcher have potential in the women’s race while Ryan Miller and Austin Wells are contenders in the men’s race.

Jochen joined Montgomery as a top 10 finisher in the recent SEC Championships while she finished 22nd in the South Central race last season and Fletcher placed 25th. Miller led the A&M men during the 8,000-meter race at the SEC Championships and finished 41st in the 2013 region meet while Wells placed 53rd a year ago at the regional.

“On an individual basis I definitely think on the women’s side we have three individuals who have a legitimate shot at qualifying for nationals,” said Texas A&M head coach Wendel McRaven. “It’s tough because there are only four individually qualifying spots in each region.

“On the men’s side Isaac will need to perform better than he did at the SEC Championships and we know he’s capable of doing that.”

Also competing for the Aggie men, who placed seventh at the South Central meet last season, are Christian Farris, Austin Geerts, Colin Slattery, Ryan Teel, and Cameron Villarreal. Geerts, Villarreal and Teel have region experience from last season.

“From a team standpoint what I really want to see from the men is the effort I’ve seen from them in practice,” noted McRaven. “We are so ready to race well. It’s just so obvious in training. We haven’t put together that really good race yet. The added distance this week should benefit us since we train more like a 10k team in the fall.”

The A&M women’s crew also includes Ashley Chamberlain, Laura Craig, Haley Deakins, Devin Norton and Katie Pia. Deakins and Craig were the fourth and fifth finishers for the Aggies at the SEC meet.

“On the women’s side we still need our number four and five runners to continue to build a little bit of confidence,” stated McRaven. “Our goal is to put ourselves in position to be in the top four or five in the region. It’s a little disappointing after tying for second place last year. But we are definitely going to have three really good runners leading the way.”

Arkansas is favored to win both team titles. The Razorback women, nationally ranked No. 4 this season, have won the past three South Central region meets while the Arkansas men, ranked No. 24 nationally, are the defending champions and have recently claimed 11 region team titles since 2000.

Baylor women, No. 21 nationally, has the inside track on the second automatic team berth to the NCAA meet over Lamar, Rice, SMU and the Aggies. Texas, who is receiving national votes, leads the squads challenging the Razorback men as the group also includes Lamar, North Texas and Texas A&M.

Texas A&M at South Central Region

Year       Men      Women               NCAA Championship Qualifiers                               
2013           7) 217        =2) 116                         Isaac Spencer, Hillary Montgomery
2012           3) 93          3) 140                            Henry Lelei, James Hodges
2011           2) 56          3) 90                              Texas A&M men, Natosha Rogers
2010           5) 166        5) 139                            Natosha Rogers, Tara Upshaw
2009           4) 89          9) 285                            Joe Sauvageau
2008           1) 39          6) 186                            Texas A&M men, Christina Munoz, Elizabeth Slaughter
2007           3) 101        4) 140                            Christina Munoz
2006           5) 165        3) 104                            Brian McKinstry, Meredith Snow
2005           3) 128        6) 193                            Sarah Balfour
2004           8) 226        5) 135                           


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