LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – Morehead State’s cross country teams met several coaches Clay Dixon‘s goals as the Eagle men finished 23rd and the women 30th at Friday’s NCAA Southeast Regional at EP “Tom” Sawyer State Park.
Junior Kyle Embry and Redshirt sophomore Garret Watts Both placed in the top 100 runners, the highest double for an Eagle men’s pair since 2018, when the team had three top 100 runners and a fourth-place finish in 105th place. It is also the fifth time in the past 10 years that two team members have placed in double digits.
The men’s team also scored 731 points and placed 23rd. It was the third straight season the Eagles improved their finish over the previous year. It was the team’s best performance since finishing 18th in 2019.
Coach Clay Dixon referred to some of the successes that the men’s team had presented on Friday.
“I am proud of their achievement. In 2019 they placed 27th. We didn’t have a regional meeting in 2020 because of Covid. In 2021 we took 25th place. This year we took 23rd place. So, we’re stepping up,” he said. “Last year our fastest was 134th and this year we had two guys who did better, two guys (were) in the top 100. In the last 20 years we’ve only ranked less than 25 runners on our Morehead team the top 100. So it’s great to have (to do) two guys. That was one of our goals.
North Carolina won the men’s competition with 61 points, followed by Virginia with 83 points. Both teams automatically secured spots for next Saturday’s NCAA Championship in Stillwater, Okla. Wake Forest (88 points), North Carolina State (96) and Duke (135) completed the top 5. The Eagles defeated some joint opponents as well as some big collegiate teams including East Carolina (25th with 747 points), Murray State ( 26th with 747 points) and Northern Kentucky (27th with 757 points).
“It’s always good to beat state rivals like Murray State and Northern Kentucky,” Dixon said. “I’m proud of their performance and how they developed throughout the race.”
A total of 222 runners started.
Embry led the Eagles in 88th place with a time of 31:49.5, an improvement on both counts for Embry, who was 154th in 32:43.10 last year. Watts finished 98th in 32:01.0. It was his first 10K since finishing 150th in 33:11.1 at the 2019 Regional Championships. Kyler Stewart was third on the team in 173.n 33:54.1. Peyton Fairchild was fourth in 34:17.0 in 181st place while Ethan Vance was 201st in 35:13.4. Jacob Vogelpohl (206. in 35:31,8) and Justin Bland (211st in 35:50.5) rounded out the Eagles.
Charlotte’s Nickolas Scudder edged North Carolina’s Parker Wolfe down the stretch to take the singles title. Scudder was clocked in 29:42.8 while Wolfe crossed the finish line in 29:44.6.
It was the first 10K cross country race for Stewart, Vance and Vogelpohl.
“I have yet to see if our team score has gone down from the 8k split to the finish but I kept telling them in the final 2k there will be guys that fall apart. We just have to stay strong. That’s where we need to gain ground,” said Dixon. “That’s one of our strengths, training more for 10K than 8K.”
Singleton led the Eagle women on Friday. She finished 181st in 23:56.6. Laikin Tarlton was next, finishing 187th in 24:07.2. Last fall, she turned 190. a freshman Christiane Brittian was a few places behind Tarlton and finished 191st in 24:25.2. Cloe Copas also beat her 2021 finish by crossing the line in 195th place in 24:35.5. She was 202 at last year’s meeting.
The MSU women did a good job packing up. Isabella Kopher followed in 202. in 24:43.8, while Megan Busch finished 207th in 24:51.1. The top six Eagles all came within 27 places and 55 seconds. AbbyTaylor rounded out the team with 225th place in 26:13.5.
North Carolina State led the top three individual finishers to a team title. The Wolfpack scored 25 points, with North Carolina second with 76 points, Virginia third with 109 points, Furman fourth with 133 points, and Duke fifth with 188 points. NC State’s Katelyn Tuohy won the race in 19:49.1, while defending champion and teammate Kelsey Chmiel was second in 19:58.6 among the 232 individual starters.
MSU scored 911 points. The Eagles topped Longwood, who scored 979 points.
“We went a bit conservative today. I think it was a bit muddy at the beginning and then there were some big dips but they pulled it off in the second half,” said Dixon. “Our midfield girls really progressed throughout the race so I was proud of that. I’m not looking at the times today, I’m just looking at how they developed during the race. Christiana really excelled today. Cloe has been moving on really well. So, on that front, it was good. “
Louisville experienced heavy rains that ended before the start of the women’s race.
“There’s literally a puddle, just a huge stream down the middle of the course, so it was interesting to see that (and) just separate the course. I’m sure that had a bit of variability. And then some of the rear parts it was clogged with mud. I’m sure it slowed it down. I’m going to estimate 20 or 30 seconds slower here than last year,” Dixon said. “Well, even that, just looking at Kyle running a 31:49. I would say that could be a top 20-10k time and then when you take more time off that because of better conditions I think that’s amazing.”