STARKVILLE, Miss. – Senior Scott MacPherson was the lead runner as No. 26 Arkansas Razorback men’s cross country earned a bronze finish at the 2008 SEC Cross Country Championships in Starkville, Miss. on Monday.
Running against two of the nation’s top teams in No. 5 Alabama and No. 11 Auburn, the Razorbacks mounted quite the fight with MacPherson and freshman Eric Fernandez taking the pace out and falling off slightly at the end. Alabama won the team race with 32 points, Auburn scored 62 points and the Razorbacks racked up 75 points.
"I’m a proud coach today," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "Our guys really laid it on the line. They ran a tough course on a warm day. My hat is off to Alabama. They ran a great race and they had a lot riding on them. Our kids ran a valiant race. They went out and tried to win it. I’m so proud of them and the effort they put forth."
"We were just 13 points away from Auburn and they are the No. 11 team in the country," Bucknam said. "I think we have more to show and we have another race to go. We are going to rally and continue to try to get better. Scott (MacPherson) was fearless and that’s what you have to be in this league. Eric (Fernandez) learned a lesson today. He went out with the lead pack and raced hard but he couldn’t hold on in the end. He’ll bounce back because he’s a talented athlete. The McClary brothers ran great; Michael Chinchar ran really well. We had some guys step up today."
MacPherson has led the Hogs all season and was nothing short of fearless in his final SEC Championship race. He clocked an 8,000-meter time of 23:41.38 to earn the third All-SEC honor of his career. He held on to the lead pack for as long as he could and finished eighth overall.
"Our season isn’t over," MacPherson said. "We still have regionals and nationals. We have some kick left in us so it’s not over yet. When we finished, we knew we gave it everything we had. We left everything we had on the course. Alabama is a great team, definitely one of the best in the nation. We can hold our heads high losing to a team like that. It’s unfortunate the streak has to come to an end. None of us wanted that but we ran our hearts out and did everything we could to keep it alive."
With a third-place finish today, Arkansas’ streak of consecutive conference titles won will end at 34. The Razorbacks won 17 titles as members of the Southwest Conference and went on to win 17 in the SEC.
Andy McClary was Arkansas’ second runner and finished 11th overall. He clocked an 8K time of 24:00.61 to earn the first All-SEC honor of his cross country career.
Alex McClary finished 17th overall and was Arkansas’ third runner. He moved up several places over the final 2,000 meters and clocked an 8K time of 24:27.55.
Sophomore Michael Chinchar made huge strides against the SEC field. He was Arkansas’ fourth scorer and finished 18th overall clocking a time of 24:32.75. His time is an 8K personal best by nearly 45 seconds and he improved on his 2007 SEC finish by 14 spots.
Fernandez, making his SEC Championship debut, was with the lead pack for most of the race and started to fall off with about 2,000 meters to go. He finished 21st overall, with a time of 24:43.51, and was Arkansas final scorer. Overall, he was the second freshman to cross the finish line and he was named to the SEC All-Freshman team for his efforts.
Lane Boyer was Arkansas’ sixth runner, finishing 25th overall with a time of 24:51.41. Freshman Rick Elliott, also making his SEC Championship debut, was the seventh Hog to cross the finish line and was 27th overall. Clocking an 8K time of 24:56.44, he was the third freshman overall to finish and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team for his performance.
Also competing for Arkansas were Duncan Phillips (28th; 24:57.90) and Rio Reina (37th; 25:13.56).
The highlights from the SEC Cross Country Championships will air on SEC-TV Thurs., Nov. 6 at5:30 p.m. (CST). For complete details from the 2008 SEC Cross Country Championships, visit www.secsports.com. For more information on Arkansas Athletics, visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.