Hitting Stride at Regionals

Commodore men and women improve on conference meet finishes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Freshman Ana Wallace led the women to a fifth-place finish and sophomore Nick Laning propelled the men to an 11th-place showing at the NCAA South Regional Cross Country Championships on Friday morning at Apalachee Regional Park.

“Very solid racing by both groups today,” said head coach Steve Keith. “I’m excited for both teams. These finishes will provide some momentum and incentive for our upcoming track seasons as well into next fall.

“The women ran aggressively and held on for one of their better 1-5 gaps (27 seconds) of the season. Congrats to Ana (Wallace) for earning All-Region honors.  Nick (Laning) ran well to earn his first All-Region honor and Matthew (Estiponal) finished a very impressive 32nd place. This is the best finish for the men at an NCAA Regional and even sweeter running ahead of four other SEC schools.”

The Vanderbilt women finished with 166 points, which beat out Alabama by a single point for a top 5 finish. Just two weeks ago at the SEC meet, the Crimson Tide were five points better than the Commodores.

Shortly thereafter, the men beat out four SEC teams and finished 11th with 303 points. At the conference meet, Tennessee was 18 points better than the Commodores, but at the Regional meet,  Vanderbilt bettered its in-state rival by 17 points.

Wallace, who earned All-SEC Freshman honors earlier this month, will add All-Region accolades to her rookie campaign with a top 25 finish. In a homecoming race, the Tallahassee native placed 24th overall with a time of 20:45.6.

The second man in program history to earn All-SEC honors, Laning will also earn All-Region honors with his 20th-place finish of 30:58.6 in the 10-kilometer race.

The official All-Region teams will be announced on Monday.

Sophomore Grace Jensen, who was less than two seconds away from All-SEC honors, finished one spot away from an automatic All-Region award, with a 26th-place finish of 20:52.1 in the women’s race.

The women’s trio of Reagan Bustamante, Caroline Pietrzyk and Haley Walker stuck together and finished within six seconds of each other. Bustamante finished 38th at 21:07.7, Pietrzyk was 40th at 21:09.8 and Walker was 43rd with a time of 21:13.4.

Sophomore Matthew Estopinal ran alongside Laning for much of the men’s race and finished 32nd overall (31:21.5).

In his final race in black and gold, senior Harrison Thomas crossed the finish line in 31:47.2 and placed 53rd overall.

Also scoring for the men was junior Caleb Van Geffen, who was 93rd (32:43.4), and sophomore Lucas Mowery, who was 113th (33:09.0). Sophomore Jonah Bird (33:11.0) was the next runner to cross the finish line and Andrew Irvine concluded his career with a 145th-place finish of 34:25.7.

The NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Track and Field and Cross Country Committee will announce the automatic teams, at-large teams and individual men and women qualifiers to the 2019 DI cross country championships on Saturday, Nov. 16. The selection show begins at 4 p.m. on NCAA.com.

A total of 31 teams compete as a team at the NCAA D-I Championships. 18 bids are automatic (top two teams in each of nine regions), 13 bids are at-large.

After teams have been determined, 38 additional individuals per gender are selected to compete at the NCAA Championships. Among individuals NOT selected as members of qualifying teams in the above process, the top four finishers at each regional meet are automatically selected (each must have finished within the top 25 of the region). Two additional athletes will be selected from the remainder of the national pool (and must have finished in the regional top 25) as at-large individuals.