SOUTH BEND, Indiana - Henry Lelei led the Aggie men to a seventh-place finish at the 57th Notre Dame Invitational on Friday afternoon as he finished second in the five-mile race with a time of 23 minutes, 36 seconds on a splendid day for racing in the Midwest.
Racing on a sun-splashed day with temperatures in the high 60s, Texas A&M matched their seventh place team finish from a year ago on the Notre Dame golf course, scoring 201 points. Last season the Aggies scored 261 points in placing seventh.
"It's always hard to judge, but I know we ran better than last year," noted Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. "The times are faster and we placed higher this time while the competition was deeper. For some teams this is their coming out party for the season. It was a beautiful day for cross country."
Tulsa won the men's team title with 104 points as they were led by individual winner Chris O'Hare, who bettered Lelei by three seconds with his 23:33 finish. Lelei led the field coming into the final 120 meters of the race. However, as the lead cart left the main course Lelei continued to follow it until a meet official guided him to the correct path to the finish line. O'Hare took over the lead and held off Lelei during the final 70 meters of the race.
"I think it was a great race for this point of the season," said Lelei. "I saw the cart go to the side and I followed. Then people started telling me I had to go to another path to finish. The Tulsa runner was able to take advantage of that. I tried to catch up to him, but it was too late.
"This was great weather to race in today. We are way ahead of last season at this point and will continue to get better for conference and regionals."
Princeton placed second among the men's teams with 139 points while Notre Dame (143), Florida State (152) and Eastern Michigan (167) rounded out the top five. New Mexico (200) squeezed ahead of the Aggie by a point. Washington State (230), McNeese State (231) and North Carolina State (237) completed the top 10 schools among the 20 that scored.
James Hodges was the second Aggie finisher as he clocked a time of 24:10 to place 18th. Then Stephen Curry placed 44th with a 24:28 while Isaac Spencer ran 24:29 to place 47th. A&M's fifth finisher was C.J. Brown in 91st with a 24:55.
"It's good to see Henry running so well and James Hodges took a huge step up today," said McRaven. "Curry and Spencer were right where I expected them to be. We are headed in the right direction, we just need to keep closing the gap between our fourth and fifth runner. We have a bunch of guys who can do that."
Rounding out the Aggie crew were MacLean O'Donnell (114th - 25:16), Colin Slattery (124th - 25:23), Dylan Williams (142nd - 25:49) and Jake Roberts (144th - 25:54) among the field of 163 runners.
In an open men's race A&M's Micah Dettmer claimed top honors as he posted a time of 25:04. Teammates Bobby Zeller (25:36) and Jake Hervey (25:50) finished ninth and 12th, respectively, in the five mile race.
"It was great to see Micah win that race," stated McRaven. "He has put in the work this summer and it was good to see it pay off for him. When you win it doesn't matter if you were just racing around in the back yard, you like to win. He may be a guy who can challenge to be in our top five."
Dettmer noted: "I went out there and worked with Bobby and Jake and it was the best teamwork I've had so far in a race. Having solid training during the summer and into this season has helped. I'm looking forward to bigger things in the future as well."
Amanda Jenkins paced the Aggie women's team to a 13th-place finish as she placed 42nd among the field of 145 runners with a time of 17:25 on the 5,000-meter course. Sophie Blake ran with the leaders early in the race and finished 52nd with a 17:29. Hillary Montgomery was the third A&M finisher in 17:30 for 55th place.
"The eight girls we lined up today are way ahead of where they were a year ago," noted McRaven. "They are showing progress and getting better. That's a real positive sign for us."
Jenkins said: "It was very nice to have a cooler environment to race in. I think that helped a lot. Sophie has led us in the first two meets this season and we have been working together in practice, so it feels good to lead the team this time."
There was a gap to the next pair of Aggies to complete the course as Shawn Dalglish (100th - 18:02) and Gabby Salazar (109th - 18:09) completed A&M's team score. Texas A&M scored 348 points to place ahead of Ohio (363), Mississippi State (366), Alabama (378), Liberty (460), and Washington State (500).
The rest of the Aggie women's crew included Grace Fletcher (122nd - 18:26), Tara Upshaw (132nd - 18:47) and Heather Sterling (133rd - 18:48).
Florida State, ranked No. 2 in the nation, won the women's team title with 28 points. Host Notre Dame finished second with a score of 110. New Mexico (147), North Carolina State (148), and Illinois (187) rounded out the top five schools.