Dores Shine at Regionals

Men and women both surpass regional rankings, four Top 30 individuals

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. McKenzie Yanek and Nick Laning led the Vanderbilt women and men, respectively, at the NCAA South Regionals on Friday at the John Hunt Cross Country Running Park.

In the women’s 6-kilometer race, Vanderbilt, which was ranked eighth in the region, finished sixth with 176 points. The men, who were unranked among the region’s top 15, tallied 315 points and finished 12th in their 10-kilometer race.

“We had a great day,” director of cross country and track and field Althea Thomas said. “Our ladies were awesome and really stepped up to reach their potential today. They put it all together. McKenzie ran with confidence, Grace (Jensen) raced well and Gillian (Mortimer) showed out today.”

“And the men ran well, too,” Thomas said. “They executed a good game plan and worked well with each other. Nick was great, and Estopinal really grinded out all 10k today and I gained even more respect for him. It was really good to watch our freshmen in their first regional meet too—they’ve looked better every time on course this year. And I was proud of Jonah Bird who helped pace the freshmen and has been a great teammate and great senior leader.”

All seven Vanderbilt women were within 73 seconds of each other. Yanek jumped out in front of the pack early and finished 17th overall with a time of 20:20.26, while senior Grace Jensen was 29th in 20:45.95.

Fifth-year senior Gillian Mortimer was 33rd at 20:51.87, while freshman Cameron Fawcett (21:06.82) and junior Niki Narayani (21:09.63) were 46th and 53rd overall, respectively, to round out the scoring for the Commodores. Lainey Phelps (21:25.87) and Haley Walker (21:33.47) placed 60th and 64th, respectively.

In the men’s race, Laning (30:27.81) and Matthew Estopinal (30:36.01) were both among the top 25 individuals. Laning was 21st and Estopinal was 25th followed by fifth-year senior Caleb Van Geffen (31:53.96), who was 78th overall.

Freshmen Philip Metcalf (31:55.05) and Zach Hodges (33:13.65) were the final two Commodore men to cross the finish line in 80th and 121st place, respectively.

The NCAA selection show is Saturday at 4 p.m. CT. The NCAA Championships are in Tallahassee, Florida, on Nov. 20.

“I’m so proud of this group,” Thomas said of the cross country programs. “As the inaugural teams in this new era at Vanderbilt, they’ve grown a lot which shows by having their best met at NCAA Regionals. They can take this hard work, maturity and growth to start the track season off where they ended in cross country and be a few steps ahead.

“They’ve served as examples and leaders for the track team, who have been invested in the cross country season. They are all roommates and friends and share what they are learning. You can tell our future is very promising when you see these intangible characteristics that help us elevate each program.”

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