Strong Showing at SEC's

Matthew Estopinal and Grace Jensen lead Commodores

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Seniors Matthew Estopinal and Grace Jensen led the Vanderbilt men and women, respectively, at the SEC Cross Country Championships on Friday at the Gans Creek Cross Country Course.

“We showed a lot of grit and grind, especially our seniors, and our race maturity was great to see against some of the best in the country,” director of cross country and track and field Althea Thomas said.

Cameron Fawcett earned All-SEC Freshman honors as the Vanderbilt women finished eighth as a team with 214 points while the men placed 11th overall with 253 points.

Fawcett is the 12th woman in school history to earn All-SEC Freshman recognition and the first since Ana Wallace in 2019. She was the fourth finisher for the Commodores and 60th overall (21:56.1).

Jensen led the way for Vanderbilt. She was 17th with a time of 20:48.1 while McKenzie Yanek battled for 29th position (21:18.5) and senior Haley Walker was 43rd overall (21:41.9). Niki Narayani, in just her second meet of the season, rounded out the scoring as the first in a pack of three Commodores (74th, 22:11.3) along with Jenna Holland (75th, 22:11.6) and Lainey Phelps (76th, 22:12.0).

“Grace (Jensen) competed well and stayed engaged with the pack as much as she could,” Thomas said. “And it was a bright moment when McKenzie (Yanek) started to fall off early but showed resiliency to bounce back, while Haley (Walker) and Cameron (Fawcett) ran well packing together early and attacking the plan.”

Estopinal was just two-tenths of a second from becoming the third Vanderbilt man to earn All-SEC honors. He placed 15th in 23:58.7.

“Pesto (Estopinal) did a great job and was so close to All-SEC,” Thomas said. “He executed the plan that coach Porter had for him very well. He exercised patience and showed confidence throughout the race.”

Laning was not far behind with a 23rd-place finish of 24:14.9. He was followed by freshman Philip Metcalf who crossed the finish line in 69th place (25:28.3).

“Nick (Laning) executed well, ran what he was capable of and was as consistent as he’s been all year,” Thomas said. “And it was encouraging to see Philip (Metcalf) show a good glimpse of what the future will look like for our men’s cross country program.”

Also scoring for the men, Caleb Van Geffen was 80th (25:47.0) and freshman Zach Hodges was 99th (26:48.9).

Postseason racing will continue into November. The NCAA South Regionals are slated for Nov. 12 in Huntsville, Alabama, followed by the NCAA Championships in Tallahassee, Florida, on Nov. 20.

“It’s championship season. It’s a whole new season,” Thomas said. “This is what we’re geared up for. Our talent and fitness is there. We’re going to regroup and get ready for (NCAA) Regionals.”

Follow Vanderbilt cross country and track and field programs on all social media platforms at @vandyxctrack.