TROY, Ala. (11/2/13) – The 2013 Sun Belt Conference (SBC) Cross Country Championships will go down in the record books as one of the best for Arkansas State University as the women’s team won their first-ever conference title and the men’s squad tied for the program’s highest finish at this Saturday’s (Nov. 2) conference meet in Troy, Ala.
The A-State women’s team turned in its best SBC Championships performance as the Red Wolves compiled a first-place 50 points on the 5K Trojan Oaks course to finish 12 points in front of runner-up Texas-Arlington in the 10-team meet.
“I’m extremely proud of our women’s team for their outstanding performance today in winning the Sun Belt Conference Championship,” said A-State head coach Jim Patchell. “I’m equally proud of our men’s team who fought hard and finished at the highest placing ever in the history of the program. I also want to congratulate Coach (Kyle) Chandler for receiving the conference coach of the year honors. He does a great job with our cross country program as evidenced by our continued improvement culminating with today’s championship.”
Arkansas State can also boast of having its first-ever individual conference champion as redshirt junior Kristina Aubert crossed the finish line in a time of 17:28.2 to place 19 seconds ahead of the field. Aubert, a three-time SBC Runner of the Week selection this fall, received first-team all-conference laurels for the second consecutive season.
Junior Rexi Parcells captured sixth place by running an 18:23.0 time while sophomore Abbey Dixon ran an 18:41.2 time to earn 11th-place honors. Junior Tilda Helgesson would finish two places behind Dixon in the 13th spot as a result of her personal season-best 18:44.2 time. Junior Heather Newberry placed 19th with a time of 19:02.3 to round out the scoring for Arkansas State as the first five runners from each team to finish receive points. With her finish, Parcells was a repeat all-league second-team honoree while Dixon along with Helgesson attained third-team all-conference accolades.
Junior Chelsey Roberson would capture 27th place following a 19:27.3 time. Senior Bailey Sisson-Eller placed 37th and freshman Brianne Murphy was 38th among the 71 competitors with times of 19:56.9 and 20:01.6, respectively.
The Red Wolves, who are presently ranked 10th in the United States Track and Field & Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) South Central Region Rankings, surpassed their previous school-best second-place showing at the 2012 SBC Championships as A-State cross country head coach Kyle Chandler earned the Sun Belt’s Coach of the Year Award.
“What more can be said about the program’s first-ever women’s cross country team and individual championship,” said Chandler. The women ran great. Obviously Kristina Aubert ran fantastic in winning the title, but perhaps Tilda Helgesson’s at our number four position was the biggest difference maker. Rexi Parcells ran with the lead pack at our number two spot and gave everything she could which epitomizes the heart and soul of the women’s team.”
While the Arkansas State women’s team enjoyed its highest conference meet placing ever, the A-State men’s squad registered a program-record tying fourth-place performance with 142 points in the nine-team 8K race. The Red Wolves finished three points ahead of fifth-place Western Kentucky (145 pts.) and four in front of sixth-place Louisiana-Monroe (146 pts.) as Texas-Arlington was crowned conference champions by earning 23 points. A-State’s 142 team points in the 2013 league meet topped the 148 points scored by the 1997 Red Wolves’ squad.
A-State’s top performer was sophomore Wil Norris, who clocked an 11th-place time of 26:04.4 to earn third-team all-conference plaudits. Norris’ placing marked the highest for an A-State runner since Seth Bortey in 2001. Along with Norris’ notable effort, sophomore Lance Beckman placed 18th following a 26:35.7 time while freshman Kyle Somerville’s 27:21.1 time was good for 32nd place. Sophomore Jesse Duvall ran the course in 27:44.7 to take 41st place and freshman Zach VanGundy was 42nd after posting a 27:47.1 time.
Senior Devin Reed would place 49th with a time of 28:15.4 and freshman Mark Talarico garnered 55th-place honors by producing a 28:49.8 time. Last season, Arkansas State came in ninth place at the conference championship meet.
“The men’s team exceeded expectations and ran a gutsy race,” Chandler said. “Their fourth-place team finishes ties the 1997 team for the best ever program finish in the Sun Belt Conference. Wil Norris’ finish was the highest for an A-State runner since 2001. Wil along with Lance Beckman and Luke Lindsley all ran great races, even though Luke was not able to physically finish. In Luke’s finishing absence, the depth of our four thru eight positions propelled the men’s team just past Western Kentucky, ULM, and Louisiana-Lafayette. I’m really pleased with the complete men’s team effort.”
The NCAA Division I South Central Regional Championship, which will be held Friday, Nov. 15 in Waco, Texas, is next on the docket for Arkansas State.