The Ladyjacks claimed their seventh SLC title on Friday in Beaumont.
Oct. 26, 2012
Photo Gallery | Final Results
BEAUMONT, Texas - Lauren Smithwon her second consecutive individual title, helping lead the Stephen F. Austin Ladyacks to their seventh conference crown on Friday morning at the Southland Conference Cross Country Championships at Tyrrell Park in Beaumont.
SFA's title is its second in the past three seasons and was joined by a strong showing from the Lumberjack men, who turned in a third-place finish led by senior Xavier Rodriguez'ssixth-place finish.
"I couldn't be happier with how well we competed today, on both sides," cross country coach Cody Clarksaid following the meet. "Things fell in as we anticipated on the guy's side and the girls really showed tremendous grit to finish things out the way they did. They earned it every step of the way."
The Ladyjacks needed every point they could get, scoring 56 points and edging Sam Houston State by just two points in what was the closest finish at the conference championship since 1994. Smith finished the 6,000-meter race in 20:59.1 for a wire-to-wire win for the second straight year, coming in eight second in front of Sam Houston's Alyssa Dooley.
Smith joins former Ladyjacks Ana Rodriguez and Ashley Monteauas the only three Ladyjacks to win multiple individual conference titles, all of which came in consecutive seasons.
"Lauren ran really well and it's very obvious she's ready for the regional meet and hopefully a trip to nationals," Clark said. "It took her about 400 meters to get where she wanted to be and she stretched it out from there and really had it on cruise control the entire way."
But even with Smith's finish, it took a strong final loop for the Ladyacks to reclaim the team title. Randi Plentl headed up the next wave of runners, making a key pass late in the race to turn in a third-place finish in 21:28.0; meanwhile, Laurie Byrdcame in next in 13th place with 22:16.1.
However, the title looks to have hinged on SFA's next runner as Danielle Burchett made a late kick and crossed in 22:27.4 for a 15th-place finish, less than a second ahead of Sam Houston's Nicole Aponte. Freshman Shelby Pesekrounded out SFA's scoring, finishing 24th in 24:48.5.
Becca Blubaugh also finished 37th in 23:30.2, and Amanda Walterscame in 48th in 24:15.9.
"I would be kidding if I said I was not nervous near the end, but I could not be more proud of the way the girls were able to close it out," Clark said. "Randi, Danielle and Laurie all made really good pushes on the last trip through the course and obviously we needed every one of those passes that we were able to get."
On the men's side, the `Jacks placed four runners in the top 20, led by Rodriguez's 6th-place finish. The senior turned in a time of 24:13.1 on the 8,000-meter course, bettering the SFA record at the conference meet by a second. Behind him was another senior, Adam Saloom, who finished in 24:47.9 for 13th place.
Rodriguez's younger brother, Jonus, came in 17th in a time of 24:55.4 and redshirt freshman Nick Guerra registered a 20th-place score at 25:06.9. Senior Hunter Russell rounded out the scoring with a time of 25:19.5 to finish 24th overall, and Moses Luevanojust missed scoring, finishing two spots behind Russell with a time of 25:22.3.
"The guys ran very well, especially our seniors," Clark said. "Xavier had run well all season and we expected nothing less than an all-conference performance from him, which he obviously turned in."
Cameron Courtney also turned in a time of 26:33.9 for a 48th-place finish, while Colby McCunecame in 54th at 26:57.5.
The men finished just 14 points behind Lamar, who saw its streak of six consecutive conference titles come to an end as McNeese State finished 1-2-3 in the race and totaled just 25 points, which was the lowest men's score at the championship since 1982.
Both the Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks will get two weeks off before jumping into competition again on Nov. 9 when they travel to Fayetteville, Ark., to take part in the NCAA South Central Regional Championships.