The Ole Miss men’s and women’s cross country teams are heading to the NCAA Championships this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin, where 31 teams will compete in both the men’s and women’s divisions. The 31 competing teams are made up of the top two finishers at each of the nine regional championships and 13 additional at-large teams.
The men’s team enters the championships as winners of the Southern Region while the women’s team received an at-large bid after placing third at regionals. The teams will bring 10 All-Region runners between the two, with the men having six — Farah Abdulkarim, Waleed Suliman, Mark Robertson, Mario Garcia Romo, Cade Bethmann and Ben Savino — and the women having four — Clio Ozanne-Jaques, Lisa Vogelgesang, Maddie King and Ylvi Traxler.
“It’s been competitive with us and a few other teams the past four or five years, so I think to finally have a breakthrough moment validates all the hard work and sacrifice the teams have put in over the years,” head coach Ryan Vanhoy said. “It just showed us we’re good enough to compete and win in this league. Hopefully it will be a turning point for us and teams to come in the future.”
The cross country program is bringing both teams to the NCAA National Championships for the third consecutive year, making it one of only nine programs in the nation to accomplish that feat during that span. The men’s team goes to Madison ranked No. 14 by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (STFCCA), and the women’s team comes in at No. 26.
“I think we’d like to go and at least run at a level that validates that the rankings were fair and hopefully outperform that by a little bit, if possible,” Vanhoy said.
The men’s team is one of two SEC schools featuring at the championship, along with Arkansas. The women’s team will be one of three SEC schools featured, with the other two being Arkansas and Florida.
The men’s team is in the midst of arguably its best season with the program winning its first-ever SEC title this season plus adding the South Region title as well. The team has been led by Abdulkarim, Robertson and Suliman all year, and the three finished in the top 10 in the 10k last week.
Ozanne-Jaques has led the line for the women’s team this year, and she earned an automatic qualification asan individual for the National Championships at regional prior to the team being selected as an at-large.
Vanhoy has these teams performing at their best heading into this weekend and should be quite proud of the work he has completed as head coach. He deservedly won Men’s SEC and Men’s South Region Coach of the Year this season and accomplished something no team has done in eight years: beating Arkansas at the SEC Championships.
“It’s obviously been a good season for our program,” Vanhoy said. “In terms of the individual coaching awards, I don’t get too concerned with those. I think that’s more of a reflection of how well the team is doing, but certainly it’s been an exciting year, and we’re looking forward to heading to Madison to finish the season on a high note.”
The women’s race will begin at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday and the men’s race will begin at 11:45 a.m.