2012 NCAA DI Cross Country Midwest Regional


2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Midwest Regional @ MSU

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OU and OSU men tie for 1st, with Tulsa 2 points back, Mizzou Men 5th

#2
Iowa State Women roll, while OSU edges Minnesota by 1 point

Topfer, Storms, and Richardson hope for individual Nationals bids

  Springfield, Missouri

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For
the second time in four years, Missouri State University hosted the NCAA
Division I Cross Country Midwest Regional Friday in Springfield. With the
Division I National Championship Meet moved from the Monday before Thanksgiving
to the Saturday before, that meant regionals moved up a day to Friday. The race
was held on the MSU Cross Country Course on the Springfield Underground site,
developed by former MSU coach and current Northern Illinois Coach Greg Hipp in
2007.
 
Athletes
from Division I schools across nine states competed, with 35 women’s teams and
30 men’s teams represented. At stake were qualifying spots to the National
Championship Meet as well as trophies to the top two teams and All-Region
honors to the top 25 finishers. The top two finishing teams from each of the
nine regionals earned automatic spots to Nationals while another 13 at-large
berths are to be announced sometime today. The top four individual finishers not
from a qualifying team earn automatic spots at nationals while a handful of
at-large individual spots will be handed out today also.

The
women’s race featured three teams ranked in the U.S. Track and Field, and Cross
Country Coaches Association top 30 rankings. Iowa State, ranked 2nd and
coming off victories at the Big 12 Meet and the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational,
cruised to victory over six kilometers on the 2k loop course that featured some
rolling hills. Former Iowa State standout, Alphine Tuliamuk-Bolton, who transferred
to attend the nursing program at Wichita State University, led most of the way.  She battled former Iowa State Teammate Betsy
Saina, and Iowa’s Mareike Schrulle. The trio was just behind the leaders at the
mile mark but halfway through the race they had pulled ahead of the field. At 4,500
meters, Tuliamuk-Bolton had a two-stride lead on Saina, while Schrulle was a
few seconds back. Several Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Minnesota runners were
part of the trailing group that strung out behind the leaders.

 

Over
the final 1500 meters, Saina passed Tuliamuk-Bolton and took the race title in
19:51, four seconds ahead of runner-up Tuliamuk-Bolton. Schrulle held on for
third in 20:09. Jessica Engel, running as one of just three Oklahoma Sooners in
the race, took 4th while Meaghan Nelson of Iowa State was 5th.  Minnesota’s first runner was Molly Kayfes who
came across the finish line in 8th while Oklahoma State countered
with the 9th and 11th place finishers.

 

With
temperatures reaching into the 70-degree range, the women’s finish area looked
like a triage unit. Many women went down after crossing the finish and needed
help getting up if not full medical attention. One Northwestern University
runner walked across the finish with a medical staff member by her side several
minutes after going down just before the finish. A Northern Illinois athlete
was unable to finish the race and had to be carted to the medical tent just
behind the finish area. It was unclear what her problems were but it appeared
to be heat-related and not a physical ailment such as a sprained or broken
bone.

 

Iowa
State put five runners in the top 26 to earn the team victory totaling 63
points. Oklahoma State edged Minnesota by one point, 95-96 for second and the
final automatic qualifying spot to nationals. Northwestern was 4th
with 204 points with Tulsa 5th with 218, Iowa 6th with
220 points.

 

Saint
Louis University had their best team and individual finish ever as Junior Margo
Richardson (Mt. Vernon, Ill) was the top Missouri finisher, taking 13th
in 21:05. She led the Billikens to a 10th place finish which marked
surely the first time The University of Missouri wasn’t the top Missouri School
in the women’s regional race. Richardson’s finish gave the SLU program a second
straight All-Region finisher as Hilary Orf placed 18th at the 2011
meet.

 

Richardson
spoke with Coach Jon Bell just after the race for several minutes, surely going
over what was next for Richardson. She would have to play the waiting and
hoping game. Richardson would have to wait and see what the final team results
were and try to calculate how many if any teams would earn at-large bids to
nationals. Hopefully the teams placing 3rd and 4th would
earn at-large bids thus decreasing the number of individuals not on qualifying
teams ahead of her and putting her in a position to earn an automatic or
at-large individual berth. With the season the Minnesota Golden Gophers have
had for Coach Gary Wilson in his final year, it seems a sure bet that they will
receive an at-large bid. With Northwestern, Tulsa, and Iowa all way back of
third place, more than 100 points back, it doesn’t seem likely any other berths
will go to Midwest teams. Those assumptions makes Richardson the 8th
individual and unlikely to earn a bid, but not impossible.

 

 A young Mizzou team, without their most
talented runner Kaitie Vanatta, struggled to a 16th place finish.
Vanatta, the injury prone fourth-year junior, was determined to have a stress
fracture before the SEC Meet last month, thus ending another season early.  On the MSU course in 2009, the freshman
Vanatta placed 8th at the regional meet to earn a spot at Nationals
where she had a great race, placing 54th and was the 5th
freshman finisher. Senior Bailey Belvis came up a little short of her second
straight All-Region finish for the Tigers. The Texas native finished 19th
in 2011 and had another strong race Friday finishing 31st, just
seven seconds back of another All-Region medal. Sophomore Liz Reida had a good
race and was Missouri’s second finisher. The race was a homecoming for Reida,
who had a standout high school career at nearby Nixa and then at Kickapoo High
School. The heat was apparently a factor with one of the Tigers top runners.
Courtney Brown didn’t appear to finish the race, though official results show
her finishing last, in just over 30 minutes. The sophomore was 53rd
as a freshman in 2011.

 

SLU
totaled 292 points to earn their 10th place finish. Besides
Richardson, the Billikens got strong races from Jessica Hoefert-43rd,
Lauren Fyalka-55th, and Natalie Myers-61st. The Saint
Louis University program has continued to grow and strengthen since track and field
returned as a sponsored sport about seven years ago under Coach Mike Nelson,
and now with Coaches Bell and Tim Bradley.
 
While
Richardson was the only All-Region performer, it was solid day for women from
Missouri or Missouri schools, with 12 finishing in the top 61, and all but one
of those finishing in 22:00 or less.  
 
             On
the men’s side, what had been one of the weakest of the nine regions just a
decade ago, the Midwest has become one of the best in recent years. With the
surge of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma under Dave Smith and Martin Smith as well
as others, the Midwest region has become strong both from individual teams
success and the number of quality teams. OSU entered the meet ranked first
nationally while OU was 8th. A third team from the state of
Oklahoma, Tulsa was ranked 19th, while Kansas was the fourth and
final ranked team coming in at 29th. Seven teams in the region have been
ranked at one time in the top 30 during the season including Missouri, Iowa
State, and Minnesota while Illinois received votes in the latest rankings.

 

              Oklahoma State used the same strategy it has the last
handful of years in becoming the strongest program in the country, including
several top four national trophies and two national titles. The Cowboys went out
relaxed, packing up together and letting others do the leading. The Mizzou men,
under second-year coach Joe Lynn, were happy to take the lead and push
themselves early on. Senior Max Storms, juniors Hayden Legg and Merid Seleshi,
and sophomores Bryant Blahnik and Sam Dickerson were packed together at the
front.

 

              The
Tigers were looking for their first NCAA Nationals appearance since 2000. After
a strong showing at the Greater Louisville Classic meet at the end of the
September, the Tigers earned a spot in the national rankings since that 2000
season. They struggled though at the biggest regular season meet of the year,
the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational and their stay in the rankings was short
lived. The Tigers bounced back with a great race at the conference meet. In
their first Southeastern Conference competition, they tied the other newcomer
Texas A&M, for third. The Tigers put nine guys in the top forty, showing
the best depth of any team. Yesterday though they most likely needed a 3rd
or 4th place finish to have any hope at an at-large berth.

 

              The
Tigers top four held strong for most of the race. As has become the norm in
recent years, the real racing didn’t get going until about 7500 meters. That is
when the Oklahoma and Oklahoma State squads went to work. They pushed the pace with
Tulsa trying to keep close. At about 8700 meters Tulsa’s Chris O’hare appeared
to hurting as he was sitting in the middle teens place-wise. But the 3:55 miler
from Great Britain showed he’ s got some guts to go with his speed. O’hare made
his way through the field and at the finishing stretch, pulled away from OSU’s
Girma Mecheso and grabbed his jersey with both hands, pulling it out away from
his chest, touting Tulsa as he crossed the line.

 

             O’hare
finished in 30:25 with Mecheso one second back. OSU and OU traded spots 2-5. OU’s
Patrick Casey was third in 30:28 and Kevin Williams 5th in 30:29.
OSU’s Tom Farrell was 4th and Shane Moskowitz 7th. OSU
put five in the top 20 and all seven runners in the top 29. OU put 6 in the top
17. Tulsa meanwhile put five in the top 15, and had a sixth man in 25 and
former St. Louis University High standout Tim Rackers was the seventh man in 31st.
That all added up to a close team battle, so close that there was a tie. OSU
and OU tied totaling 45 points, while Tulsa was just two points back with 47.
 
               With
their third coach in three years, Illinois had a strong race to finish fourth
with 154 points. The Illini were led by Hunter Mickow who finished sixth and
Jannis Topfer who was 13th. Topfer is the German native who was a
high school standout at St. Louis’ M.I.C.D.S. After several years of running
for a college in The Netherlands, Topfer moved on to the University of Texas last
year were he was unable to clear up eligibility issues so ran for the school’s
running club, instead of the collegiate NCAA team. Topfer is in his first year
at Illinois and studying in it’s Aeronautics program. The finish will almost
surely get the long, lean German into the national meet. He was the 5th
individual not from the top two teams, but should get a bid with Tulsa’s strong
at-large possibilities.




               The
Missouri men had a strong showing but had to settle for fifth place. Senior Max
Storms was able to hold on for an 18th place finish in 30:47 to lead
the Tigers. Minnesota native Bryant Blahnik continues to improve for the
Tigers. The sophomore finished in 30th, with juniors Merid Seleshi
and Hayden Legg close behind in 33rd and 34th. Another
junior, Tyler Compton rounded out the scoring finishing in 58th to
give the Tigers a total of 173 points.  Storms finish will likely earn a berth to
nationals.
 
                Kansas
had to settle for sixth as they were bested by long time rival and former
conference foe in Missouri. Kansas totaled 194 points, while Minnesota was 7th
with 221, Iowa State 8th with 227, Southern Illinois 9th
with 248 and Loyola 10th with 326.
 
                Topfer
was the top finisher with Missouri connections as he edged former Kickapoo High
State Champion Danny Thater of Tulsa by two seconds as the pair went 13-14. After
a breakout season on the track last year were he earned the Mizzou 10k record,
Max Storms earned All-Region honors for the first time. UMKC senior Cosmas
Ayabei earned a third straight All-Region honor but the Kenyan native came up
short of earning his second straight national berth. Ayabei finished in the top
10 at regionals last year before a 56th place finish at nationals.
Ayabei finished 23rd.

 

               Saint
Louis had a strong showing by their two sophomore standouts. Michael Scolarici
finished 48th in 31:31 while Tim Zellmer finished 60th . Two
former Missouri prep standouts had strong days to finish out their college freshman
seasons. Former Lee’ s Summit North star Kolton Sheldon was 79th for
UMKC, while former Rock Bridge state champion Caleb Wilfong was 87th
for Iowa.

 

               The
meet was a first for North Dakota and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville,
as the schools are now full NCAA Division I members, completed the several year transition from Division 

II. 

 

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