CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Virginia Tech cross country teams competed today at the NCAA Southeast Regional at McAlpine Park in Charlotte, N.C. The men’s team took fourth with 150 points while individual honors went to redshirt seniors Will Mulherin and Michael Hammond who claimed all-region honors for the second year in a row. As a team, the men will await the announcement for at-large bids for the NCAA Championships to see if they will qualify for next weekend’s meet.
“We probably had one of weaker team races of the year, but we had certain people step up and run really well,” Virginia Tech head coach Ben Thomas said of the men’s race. “One of our seniors Brian Welch made a real nice improvement with his time and that helped out because Tommy [Curtin] was having some physical issues today and Brayden [Burleigh] just wasn’t where he thought he would be. The other guys did just enough to get it done so if you can run an off race and still qualify for nationals, that’s something to be pretty proud of. We haven’t had a cross team at nationals in 25 years so you have to be proud of it.”
Mulherin finished seventh in the men’s 10k race with a time of 29:52.51. He was one of nine runners in the field to finish the course in under 30 minutes. The all-region honor is the third of his career. The senior was the fourth runner to complete the race that wasn’t on an automatic qualifying team, thus he earned a bid to nationals as an individual. Last year, he earned All-America status after finishing 30th at nationals.
“He didn’t have a great race today either, but I’m not worried about him,” Thomas said of his top finisher. “He’ll be ready for nationals and hopefully improve on his finish from last year. I definitely know that he’s in shape to.”
Hammond was less than a minute back of his teammate after coming in at 30:44.33 for 22nd place. Finishing eight spots back of the senior was junior Leoule Degfae at 30:54.66.
Rounding out Tech’s top five spots were Welch and Kevin Dowd who finished back-to-back in 45th and 46th with times of 31:14.73 and 31:15.40, respectively.
“It was real big because I know they saw that Brayden and Tommy had dropped back so they knew it was on them and I told them that our fifth guy has to be in the 40’s at worst and they worked and worked and kept chasing and got it done in the end,” Thomas said of the importance of Welch and Dowd’s races.
In the women’s 6k, sophomore Sarah Rapp earned the first all-region award of her career. Rapp earned the honor by finishing in 25th place with a time of 21:16.49. Tech’s other two runners in the field were Alex Watt (21:48.80) who finished 51st and Hannah Gray (22:13.36) in 83rd.
For updates on Virginia Tech cross country, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Track).