NACOGDOCHES For the second straight season, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi women's cross country team has claimed the Southland Conference Cross Country championship defeating host Stephen F. Austin 49-61.
Led by Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year Anne Ronoh, the Islanders placed three runners in the top 10 and placed all five of its scoring runners in the top 15. The Ladyjacks had two runners in the top 10 to place second, while Texas State was third with 95 points.
UT Arlington finished fourth as a team with 108 points, while UTSA was fifth with 152. Southeastern Louisiana placed sixth (164), Lamar seventh (176), Sam Houston State eighth (191), McNeese State ninth (236), Central Arkansas tenth (243), Nicholls State 11th (255) and Northwestern State was 12th with 357.
Ronoh earned newcomer honors after placing second overall in 21:47 just eight seconds behind winner Dana Mecke of UTSA who had a time of 21:39. Mecke has not lost a race this year.
Sophomore Caitlin Arambula and Courtney Johnson also finished in the top 10 to earn All-Southland Conference honors. Arambula was eighth overall with a time of 22:35 which was three seconds faster than Johnson who was 10th. Cynthia Santaella was 14th and Sheila Salil 15th in 22:53 and 22:58 respectively. Three other Islanders ran but did not score as Sarah De Los Santos was 18th in 23:13 and Alex Bullard 23rd in 23:25. Kristin Torres was 49th overall in 25:01.
"We had a great performance from top to bottom," said Islander head coach Shawn Flanagan, who was named the Southland Conference Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year for the second straight season. "Anne ran another great race and our sophomores Caitlin and Courtney really stepped it up.
"It was a tough a course the toughest we have seen all season but fair. We had a plan going into the race and we execute it well."
On the men's side, the Islanders placed third behind Lamar, who had four runners in the top eight led by winner Samuel Kosgei in 24:13 and runner-up Francis Kasagule in 24:31 to win its third straight crown, and host Stephen F. Austin. Lamar finished with 29 points, while SFA had 87 to the Islanders 129. UT Arlington was fourth with 130, while Sam Houston State rounded out the top five with 138 points. UTSA placed sixth (145), McNeese State and Texas State tied for seventh (151), ninth was Southeastern Louisiana (170), Central Arkansas tenth (268), Northwestern State was 11th in 294 and Nicholls State 12th in 359.
Scott Vance was the top Islander finisher missing All-SLC honors by a spot finishing 11th in 25:40, while Ari Perez was 20th in 26:22. Edward Kemei and Erik Burciaga were 23rd and 25th, respectively, with times of 26:34 and 26:35. Eloy Zertuche and Blaine Gibson were 50th (27:58) and 51st (28:03), respectively. Richard Zapata finished with a time of 28:17 (53rd) and Kirk Dalheim in 28:42 (63rd). Dalheim struggled due to heat issues down the stretch.
"We went out to try and win the race and we paid for it down the stretch," said Flanagan. "We tried to stay with Lamar and they went out fast and that killed us down the stretch. Kirk struggled with the heat and we needed him to be in our top five. He battled to just finish and we have had anyone outside of the top five able to fill a hole like that.
"We could have run more conservatively and likely finished second. We knew it was a long shot to win and went for it. I can't be more proud of the guys because they left it all out on the course.
"I am proud with the effort of both teams."
Both teams will compete at the NCAA South Central Region meet in two weeks.