XC: Men's team runs past field for Sun Belt crown
Nov. 2, 2013
TROY, Ala. - The UT Arlington men's cross country team cruised to victory at the Sun Belt Conference Championships Saturday in Troy, Ala., picking up the squad's second straight league title and the school's first Sun Belt crown in any sport. The women suffered a narrow defeat, finishing as the runner up in its first SBC meet.
The top five Maverick men each placed among the top seven, as UTA had an impressive total of just 23 points to easily out-distance second-place UALR (54 points). UTA, which won the Western Athletic Conference last year, now has claimed back-to-back league titles for the first time in school history.
"The guys had a race plan that they were able to execute very well," Sun Belt Conference Men's Coach of the Year John Sauerhagesaid. "We sent a message early on with our start and we held it throughout the race. We really showed our team depth, as our splits from 1-5 were very good."
Craig Lautenslager was the team's top performer, as he placed second in the 8k course in 25:31.8. Right behind him was teammate Ryan Tilotta(3rd, 25:39.3). Both runners earned first-team All-Sun Belt Conference accolades for their efforts. Lautenslager was 11 seconds off the winning time.
Joining them on the first team was Emil Blomberg, who placed fifth in 25:49.3. He edged fellow Mavs Eric Ojeda (6th, 25:52.4) and Virgilio Martinez(7th, 25:53.5), both of whom snagged second-team all-league plaudits. In addition, Ojeda was named Freshman of the Year.
Just 22 seconds separated the top five Mavericks on a very challenging course that Sauerhage said was the hilliest he had ever seen in his 18 years at the helm of the program.
The women had a total of 62 points to finish just 12 behind champion Arkansas State. Western Kentucky came in third with 68 points.
"We lost a heartbreaker on the women's side," Sauerhage said. "They got two runners in front of our pack and we weren't able to overcome that. But the girls ran well. We are disappointed we didn't win, but I am very proud of our effort. We have made a lot of progress with our women's team, and they all return next year."
Hannah Nilsson, Gabriela Alfonzo and Ashly Wrightall earned second-team all-conference mention, as they finished eighth through 10th. Nilsson navigated the 5k layout in 18:27.4, with Alfonzo (18:34.9) and Wright (18:35.6) right behind.
The teams will next participate in the South Central Regionals in Waco, Texas, on Fri., Nov. 15.
"We believe our men's team is a contender for the NCAA Championships," Sauerhage said. "All year, we've been pointing our efforts toward November and this was a great first step."