GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Texas A&M women’s cross country team garnered a milestone accomplishment in the history of the program by placing second at the SEC Championships on Friday at the University of Florida golf course. With a score of 123 points the Aggies finished as runner-up to Arkansas’ 32 points.
“This is a huge achievement by the women’s team,” stated Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “They have worked well in training with assistant coach Wendel McRaven and have done a great job this season.”
This marks the highest finish ever in a conference meet for the Texas A&M women’s program. In the Southwest Conference the Aggie women placed third five times in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1990 and 1992. In the Big 12, Texas A&M placed fourth twice in 2000 and 2002.
“I’m really proud of them,” noted McRaven. “I told them before the race they didn’t have to be perfect today, to just keep doing what we’ve been doing. If we run well, we are going to be in the hunt to get second place. We knew we could do that, we had that potential coming into the meet.
“To accomplish that feat shows a sign of maturity with this group and that they are getting better with each race. Now we have two weeks and we race in the regional meet.”
Last season, during their first venture in the SEC, the A&M women placed eighth in conference. Leading the team to its lofty finish among the 14-team women’s field was the trio of Hillary Montgomery, Karis Jochen and Grace Fletcher.
Montgomery, who was leading the Kentucky’s Cally Macumber, the 2012 SEC champion, with 1,000 meters left in the 6,000-meter race, finished eighth with a time of 20:39.32. Jochen, the second fastest freshman in the field, placed 13th with a clocking of 20:53.33.
“I could not have asked for a better experience,” said Montgomery, who was 41st in last year’s SEC race. “When Coach McRaven told us we had a chance to get second place we were really pumped up. That was our goal. Coming into the meet we knew we were capable of doing it. Then it was just a matter of putting all of the pieces together. We all ran for each other.”
Montgomery and Jochen were each named to the All-SEC second team and Jochen also made the All-SEC Freshman team with their performances.
“I’m so excited for the team today,” said Jochen. “Getting second place in the SEC is special since there are so many good teams from different regions in this conference. So this makes us look really good going into the region meet in a couple of weeks. Everyone worked as a team today, every runner we passed made a difference in us getting second place. It was a huge team effort.”
In the final 75 meters of the race Fletcher passed three runners that were ahead of her to grab 19th place with a time of 21:10.83. The trio Fletcher passed included a runner from Vanderbilt and a pair of Razorbacks.
“Hillary’s been on fire all season,” said McRaven. “She has shown tremendous improvement over this past year. It’s unbelievable how much better she is now. Karis bounced back from her performance at Wisconsin to get All-SEC honors. That’s a really nice bounce back for her and I think she still has some better races left in her.
“For Fletcher this was the best race in her college career, easily. I told her before the race I could see it coming from her races this season and in training even more so. If she raced with confidence I thought she could close that gap to the first two. I think she will still keep closing that gap.”
Sophie Blake and Amanda Jenkins finished as the fourth and fifth Aggies to complete A&M’s scoring crew. Blake placed 41st in 21:44.88 while Jenkins battled for 44th place in 21:47.40.
Katie Willard finished in 64th place (22:12.79) as the sixth runner for the Aggies while Gabby Salazar was the seventh finisher, placing 69th (22:18.07). Johanna Galloway placed 85th (22:52.94) as A&M’s eighth runner among the field of 119 finishers.
The Aggies score of 123 placed them ahead of Kentucky (134), Florida (150), Vanderbilt (161), Alabama (174), Missouri (178) and Tennessee (179) in a tightly contested field.
A score of 187 points had the Texas A&M finishing in a tie with Tennessee for seventh place. Arkansas claimed the men’s title with 31 points with Florida second at 96 and Georgia third with 101.
“Even though it’s a young group I was hoping for top five or six,” noted McRaven. “They’re youngsters and are figuring some things out.”
Isaac Spencer led the Aggies with a 14th-place finish, covering the 8,000-meter course in a time of 24:22.53 to earn All-SEC second team status. Cameron Villarreal and Xavier Jimenez each claimed a spot on the All-SEC Freshman team as the second and third A&M runners. Villarreal placed 28th in 24:55.03 while Jimenez finished 46th with a 25:23.45.
“We went out in 4:41 through the first mile and that is the pace I wanted to be in at the start,” noted Spencer. “I finished 14th and was able to earn the last All-SEC spot. This is the best team race we’ve had all year, so it’s something to build for the region meet coming up.”
McRaven added: “Spencer ran a great race and did a nice job. He battled throughout the race and should be a guy who is top five or top 10 in this conference. He’ll have another chance next year to do that.”
Austin Geerts followed Jimenez by placing 47th (25:29.37) and Ryan Teel completed the Aggies team score as the fifth finisher in 54th place (25:35.72). Austin Wells (25:36.76) and Ryan Miller (25:37.14) followed Teel closely to place 55th and 56th as the sixth and seventh runners for A&M.
Micah Dettmer (25:46.80) and Colin Stoeber (25:48.77) finished in tandem to place 64th and 65th. Jake Roberts (27:07.74) placed 101st among the field of 114 finishers.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS, Nov. 1, Gainesville, Florida
WOMEN’S Team Scores: 1. Arkansas 32, 2. Texas A&M 123, 3. Kentucky 134, 4. Florida 150, 5. Vanderbilt 161, 6. Alabama 174; 7. Missouri 178, 8. Tennessee 179, 9. Mississippi 190, 10. Mississippi State 191, 11. Georgia 224, 12. South Carolina 294, 13. Auburn 309, 14. LSU 460.
MEN’S Team Scores: 1. Arkansas 31, 2. Florida 96, 3. Georgia 101, 4. Missouri 107, 5. Kentucky 173, 6. Auburn 175, 7. tie, Tennessee & Texas A&M 187, 9. Mississippi State 229, 10. Mississippi 242, 11. Alabama 251, 12. LSU 356, 13. Vanderbilt 369.