LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In its first time running at the NCAA Championships since 1987, the Virginia Tech men’s cross country team finished in 22nd place after only five of its seven runners were able to complete today’s 10k race at E.P. ‘Tom’ Sawyer State Park. The team finish was the third-best in the five times that the team has been to nationals. Redshirt senior Will Mulherin led the way for the Hokies by earning All-America accolades by tying for 28th place.
“First of all, I’m really proud of Will Mulherin for becoming a two-time All-American,” Virginia Tech head coach Ben Thomas said. “A two-time All-American in cross country is really hard to do. There’s not a lot of those guys out there and he’s the first guy in our school’s history so that’s a perfect cap to a perfect season for him.
Tech’s No. 1 runner, Mulherin paced the Hokies with his second consecutive All-America finish as he came in at 29:52.7, tied for 28th place. With the honor, the redshirt senior became the first men’s runner in Tech history to earn All-America honors twice during his career. His time was two tenths of a second back of his personal best 10k time which he set last week at the NCAA Southeast Regional in Charlotte, N.C.
“It was a good race,” Mulherin said. “I kind of ran the same race as I did last year. I went out and tried to run with the lead pack, get a really good improvement on my place from last year. About halfway through, I fell off a little bit and kind of battled back in the second half to stay with the group. I think at one point I was 35th and over the last mile or two, I battled back to get into the 20s.”
Tech’s next two finishers were junior Leoule Degfae in 82nd, followed by Thomas Curtin in 88th. Degfae’s time of 30:36.3 was just over 30 seconds faster than his previous best 10k time. Curtin, just like his teammate improved his personal best 10k with a 30:37.9 finish. It was just under 30 seconds better than his previous best. Both broke the 10k top times that they set last year in Louisville at the Southeast Regional.
Seniors Jason Cusack and Brian Welch were four and five for the Hokies. Cusack finished with a new personal-best 10k time of 32:04.4 while coming in at 219th. Welch was two spots back of his teammate with a time of 32:05.2.
“Our top three guys ran well enough to be a top 10 team today, but unfortunately it takes five in cross country and our four and five just didn’t have the backup that we’ve been having,” Thomas added. “Tommy Curtin and Lee Degfae, they’ll have opportunities to hopefully be back at this meet next year and they certainly showed today that they can step up and run well at this level.”
“I’m excited for the season we had and I’m of course excited for the track season and what these guys can bring, hopefully another ACC indoor track title,” Thomas said. “This cross country season really set the tone for that. I appreciate the work that our seniors did. We of course wouldn’t have had the season we had without Will’s efforts and Michael’s efforts. It was a great season. It wasn’t the perfect ending but it was a very solid finish.”
With his achievement of earning his second All-American accolade, Mulherin will go down as the most accomplished cross country runner in Tech’s history. He’s finished his career as a two-time All-American, two-time All-Region performer, three-time All-ACC performer while also leading the 2012 team to its first ACC Championship by winning the program’s first ACC individual championship.
“It’s amazing,” Mulherin said of the accomplishment. “I never really thought that this could happen. I’m just happy with the way that the season finished out. I was a little upset with how the outdoor season finished last year so I was determined to change that and finish out this season on a good note. I came into this meet, fit and feeling about the same as I did last season. I was confident in my ability to run the same race I did at regionals and I was able to do that. To become a two-time All-American is something that is difficult to get but I hope it’s something people can do in the future at Virginia Tech. I hope I’m not the only one for a while. I’m just happy to finish out my cross country eligibility like this.”
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