LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Texas A&M women placed third in Saturday’s Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic, finishing just a point outside of another SEC team, Kentucky. The Aggie men placed 11th among a field of 32 teams on the E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park.
“This is kind of the kickoff for the racing season in cross country,” said Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. “For the women’s team to run and compete as well as they did, even when they didn’t have a perfect race, is a good sign. Eventually we’ll have all five, six and seven girls clicking on the same cylinder. We know it’s there because we see it in training as well as in some past races.
“The men’s team finish wasn’t truly indicative of our ability as a team. Isaac Spencer is showing some maturity and ran the race the way we wanted him to. The other younger guys in the race for us need to have faith in his ability to lead them. We need to work on getting that gap closed down from Isaac to the rest of the group.”
Hillary Montgomery led the A&M women with a 10th place finish in a time of 17:26.90 with Karis Jochen 15th in 17:36.02 over the 5,000-meter course.
“I’m really excited and I think our team is really strong this year,” stated Montgomery. “We still need to work on a couple of things, but we ran really well together. The course was so nice, and it was an exciting atmosphere. It’s an incredible feeling to race on a course where they have hosted nationals.”
Isaac Spencer produced a ninth place effort in the men’s 8,000-meter race, covering the course in 24:44.86.
“I went out a lot more conservative this time compared to how fast we went out at the Rice meet a couple of weeks ago,” Spencer explained. “From mile two to three I was in 30th place and was able to move up to 14th. Then I just started reeling people in from there to the finish line.
“Instead of finishing the race with nothing left, I was able to finish in a stronger position to catch people. That’s exactly what I wanted to do, so I felt really comfortable today.”
Guelph, a team from Canada, won both team Gold division titles as the women totaled 49 points and the men scored 60.
Following Guelph in the women’s Gold division race were Kentucky with 130 points and the Aggies with 131. The rest of the top 15 teams included Eastern Kentucky (176), Louisville (197), Miami of Ohio (229), Tennessee (233), Western Ontario (280), Arkansas State (312), St. Louis (326), Marquette (343), Elon (352), Edinboro (368), Georgia Tech (389) and Western Kentucky (440).
Host Louisville was second in the men’s race with 100 points while Southern Indiana placed third with 129. The rest of the top 15 teams included Tennessee (152), Washington of Missouri (227), East Tennessee State (304), Edinboro (311), Georgia Tech (311), St. Francis (321), Florida A&M (333), Texas A&M (338), Morehead (360), Ferris State (378), Eastern Kentucky B (392), and Campbell (411).
Scoring the meet among only the Division I schools competing the women’s title is shared between the Aggies and Kentucky with 92 points each while Eastern Kentucky places third with 126 points. The A&M men finished sixth among Division I schools with 202 points behind Louisville (53), Tennessee (81), East Tennessee State (175), Georgia Tech (186) and Florida A&M (194).
In the men’s race, which started with a comfortable sunny morning, the individual winner was Peter Okwera of Tennessee, who covered the course that served as host of the NCAA Championships last fall in 24:20.39. Louisville’s Ernest Kibet placed second in 24:22.10.
By the start of the women’s race the sky was more overcast with higher humidity. Eastern Kentucky’s Ann Eason claimed the individual title in 16:51.39 over defending SEC champion Cally Macumber of Kentucky, who ran 16:57.75 for runner-up honors.
Jochen was the top Aggie runner in the first half of the women’s 5,000-meter race with Montgomery just a couple of strides back. In the latter half of the race Montgomery advanced into the top A&M position and produced the top 10 finish.
“I tried to run with Karis for most of the race,” said Montgomery. “At the third mile I started picking up the pace. Coach McRaven had told us to feel the race out and try to go in that last mile. That’s what we’ve been training for. So, that’s when I tried to make my move.”
McRaven added: “Hillary did a great job. It was great to see her lead the charge and have her hard work pay off.”
The next pair of Aggies to finish was the tandem of Sophie Blake and Grace Fletcher, placing 20th and 23rd, with times of 17:44.11 and 17:51.05. Then Amanda Jenkins claimed the fifth scoring spot for A&M, placing 70th in 18:28.30.
Texas A&M’s top five scoring positions were 9-14-19-22-67 with Katie Willard (95th, 18:44.93) and Gabby Salazar (117th, 19:00.03) at 90 and 110 as the sixth and seventh runners. Kentucky’s scoring five came through in positions 2-7-16-45-60 to claim second place by a single point over the Aggies.
“The women ran a solid race and I’m very pleased with the performance,” said McRaven. “We still trained pretty hard this week leading up to this race. We weren’t hitting on all cylinders, but our top four were really solid today.”
Kentucky led A&M by 17 points though the first three finishers, but the Aggies picked up 23 points based on Fletcher’s finish over the Wildcats fourth runner. The six point edge for A&M came up just short when the fifth runner for Kentucky placed 60th compared to Jenkins being 67th for the Aggies.
“Finishing that close to Kentucky is a good sign for us,” noted Montgomery. “As a team we can run a lot better than we raced today. We raced well, but I think we are capable of a lot more. We’re excited to prove that in the upcoming weeks.”
The next three finishers for the A&M women’s team included Joanna Galloway (123rd, 19:03.27), Heather Sterling (153rd, 19:15.97), and Meredith Gleitz (217th, 19:48.48).
Behind Spencer’s leading effort for the A&M men, four freshmen claimed the following four scoring positions. Austin Wells was the second Aggie to finish as he placed 72nd with a time of 25:44.16. Cameron Villarreal ran 25:52.29 for 86th place, and Colin Stoeber clocked 26:04.40 to finish in 103rd. The fifth runner for A&M was Ryan Teel at 106th in 26:06.45. The scoring positions for the squad were 8-65-78-92-95.
Three more Aggies followed in a four-minute gap as Austin Geerts placed 110th in 26:08.49, Xavier Jimenez finished 113th in 26:09.80, and Jake Roberts was 121st in 26:12.59. Micah Dettmer (155th, 26:38.67) and Alex Riba (231st, 27:44.76) rounded out the A&M squad.