FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas cross country punched its ticket to the NCAA Championships with an NCAA South Central Regional title win at Agri Park in Fayetteville on Saturday. The Hogs scored 37 points to win the event.
The Razorbacks have won 18-consecutive NCAA South Central titles since 1990 and 29 of 30 South Central Championships awarded since 1978 (The loss came in 1989).
“We were happy with the way it turned out,” head coach John McDonnell said. “We were hoping to run the race without exerting all of our energies and save a bit for nine days from now.”
Running in their typical pack, the Arkansas harriers finished five scorers in the top 12, six runners in the top 31 and all seven Hogs in the top 45 of the 105 runners competing.
The Texas Longhorns were the runners-up in the team competition with 52 points. Both the Hogs and the ‘Horns earned automatic bids to the NCAA Championships. Shadrack Sangok of Texas A&M Corpus Christi was the individual race winner with a time of 29:16.3.
“I was very pleased with (the way the team ran in a pack) because that’s what we had planned,” McDonnell said. “Today is just a prerequisite for the National Championship because we had to qualify and you get nothing for running good today. But you have to get there. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. You can’t take it too easy but you’ve got to win and go on.”
Matt Munoz led the Arkansas attack with a fifth-place finish and a time of 29:36.7. Today’s race marks the first time Munoz was the first Hog to cross the finish line. The time is also a 10K personal best.
“We just had to be calm, cool and collected, and feed off each other, and just run with some Arkansas pride,” Munoz said. “We thought those five guys (the lead pack) were going to be the guys that would stay up in the front. Tyler (Hill), Scott (MacPherson), Chris (Barnicle), Shawn (Forrest) and I just stayed together and stayed calm and kind of fed off each other the whole race.”
Chris Barnicle was the second Hog to cross the line in sixth place with a time of 29:37.8. Scott MacPherson finished seventh with a 10K time of 29:39.3. Tyler Hill was ninth, clocking a time of 29:55.8. Shawn Forrest rounded out the scoring five with a 12th-place finish and a time of 30:09.5.
“Shawn (Forrest) has a cold and he had a little trouble breathing, and he ran anyway,” McDonnell said. “He’ll be okay for next week. We knew that he was going to be a little bit off but not totally.”
Munoz and McDonnell were in agreement that running on Arkansas’ home course definitely aided in today’s title win.
“That definitely helps when everyone is calling the Hogs,” Munoz said. “It’s very, very enjoyable (to run at our home course). And we definitely can’t lose at our own course.”
“I was very pleased with Matt (Munoz),” McDonnell said. “He had a head cold at the conference meet and he switched places today with Shawn (Forrest). Shawn was our first man and today he’s our fifth. So that’s the good thing about this team. If we just hit it with all five of them, we’ll hit it and we’ll have nothing wrong. I think we’ll be okay.”
Arkansas’ five scorers earned South Central All-Region honors for their efforts. Also competing for the Razorbacks were Rio Reina (31st; 31:24.0) and Michael Chinchar (45th; 31:48.8).
The Hogs will compete in the NCAA Championships, Mon., Nov. 19m, in Terre Haute, Ind. For complete details, visit www.ncaasports.com.