Rebel men place third, women fifth at SEC XC Championships

Published 6:00 am Sunday, November 1, 2015

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Ole Miss men finished third and the women placed fifth on a rain-soaked Friday morning at the Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships, hosted by Texas A&M at the Dale Watts Cross Country Course.

This was the best combined conference finish for the men and women in Ole Miss cross country history, which dates back to 1967 for the men and 1985 for the women.

The men, who were runners-up last year, earned consecutive top-three results for the first time since 1968-69. Despite running without their top finisher from last season, Wesley Gallagher, due to illness, the Rebels placed third behind reigning champion Arkansas and host Texas A&M.

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Sophomore Sean Tobin and junior Craig Engels paced the Rebels by crossing 15th and 16th individually in the 8K race at 23:58.7 and 24:00.0, respectively. They both had an average mile time in the 4:49 range on Friday.

Four total Ole Miss men finished among the top 30 runners. Junior Robert Domanic was 25th in 24:21.1, and sophomore Mark Robertson was 28th in 24:23.7.

Brandon Harvey garnered SEC All-Freshman honors by placing among the top seven freshmen in the race. He was fourth among freshmen and 50th overall in 24:53.6. It’s the third straight year an Ole Miss man has made the SEC All-Freshman squad.

“Obviously, our men are disappointed,” cross country coach Ryan Vanhoy said. “We’ve dealt with our fair share of adversity this season, but we still expected to compete better at this meet and we set our goals higher than where we finished today. Even though we fell short, we still have another opportunity ahead of us in defending our South Region title and advancing to the NCAA Championships. We will regroup and look ahead to that challenge.”

As she has all season, junior Mary Alex England paced the Rebel women with a 10th-place individual finish, clocking a time of 20:19.5 over 6K. That’s the second-best individual finish by an Ole Miss woman in program history, behind Katie Breathitt’s ninth-place result in 2012. England’s average mile was just under 5:27 Friday.

Historic finish
The women’s team finish matched the second-best in program history. Ole Miss placed fourth in 2012 and fifth in 2011.

Sophomore Shelby Brown was second for the Rebels in 27th place (20:42.7), while twin sisters Britt Ummels and Bo Ummels were 35th and 37th in 20:57.3 and 20:57.7, respectively.
All 10 Rebel women finished in the top 80 out of 135 total SEC runners.

“The women ran fantastic, top to bottom,” Vanhoy said. “Coming out of this meet a year ago after finishing 12th as a team, we talked about chopping that finish in half in 2015 and shooting for the top five. They’ve shown steady progress all year and I’m really proud of how far they’ve come. The Ummels twins and Nikki Park really stepped up big today in the 3-4-5 position for us, and that paid off with a nice team finish.”

Arkansas also claimed the team title on the women’s side.

Next up for the Ole Miss men and women is a Nov. 13 trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for the NCAA South Regional. A top-two team finish at the regional automatically earns a spot at the NCAA Championships. Ole Miss is the defending NCAA South Region Men’s Champion.