No. 27 Toledo Set For NCAA Championship Race on Saturday at Louisville
The Rockets are coming off a fifth-place finish at the Great Lakes regional last weekend, earning an at-large bid to the national championship for the third-straight year. Only four Mid-American Conference schools have ever qualified for the NCAA Women's Cross Country Championship, and Toledo is the only one to appear more than once (2010, 2011, and 2012). Toledo also became one of only 17 programs to qualify for the last three NCAA championship meets.
The three-time repeating MAC champions have been ranked as high as No. 15, while appearing in every regular season NCAA Division I National Coaches' Poll this season.
"We are excited to be back at the NCAA Championships," UT Head Coach Kevin Hadsell said. "I feel like this team is only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of their high-end potential. This weekend is just a small step in terms of our long-term goals."
Toledo is led by senior Kaylin Belair who will be running in her second national championship. Belair finished 69th overall as UT's No. 2 runner in last year's race with a time of 21:00. Two-time, All-MAC runner Megan Wright will miss her second race of the season due to an injury following her third-place finish at the MAC championships. That leaves a little bit of uncertainty in the rest of the UT lineup for Saturday.
According to Hadsell, the lineup is not finalized, but sophomores Liz Weiler, Priscilla Timmons, Brooke Tullis and junior Devyn Ramsay are most likely to compete on Saturday with Belair. All four are all-conference performers this season and ran at last week's regional meet.
The final two spots are still up in the air. Sophomore Mackenzie Chojnacky, junior Liz Lemon, redshirt freshman Sharon Morgan or freshmen Stephanie Ingraham are Hadsell's options to seal the lineup. Chojnacky, a two-time MAC Runner of the Week winner this year, has battled illness and injuries for a couple weeks now. She hasn't been the same since before the MAC championship and her status is uncertain. Lemon and Morgan are viable options to fill the last two slots, as both earned All-MAC Second Team accolades at the MAC meet, but did not run last week. Ingraham is another legitimate option to fill one of the spots after running her first-career race last weekend, finishing 72nd overall in 21:52.
Hadsell believes that the lineup's ambiguity is a good thing and shows how much depth the program has.
"We have been able to build a tremendous amount of depth that very few schools have in the country," he said. "The benefit of making the NCAA championships so many times is that we are starting to really be a destination school for the top talent in the Midwest, particularly Ohio."
Last year, Toledo ran to a 21st-place finish at the NCAA championship in Terre Haute, IN with 483 points. That ended up being the highest finish ever recorded by a MAC program, and the highest national ranking (21st) by UT. All-American Emma Kertesz led the Rockets while finishing 49th overall with a mark of 20:48.
In 2010, the Rockets took 28th place in Terre Haute during their first NCAA championship appearance as a team. All-American Ari Fisher paced that year's squad in 26th place, which was the second-highest finish by Rocket at the national meet. All-American Briana Shook finished 24th in the 2002 race as an individual competitor.
"I've always wanted to be in a position to show that you do not need to be in a major conference or be a private school to be competitive at the NCAA level," Hadsell said. "We do it with a hard-working, blue-collar approach to training and competing."
Follow @UTXCTRACK and @RocketCoach70 on Twitter for the latest updates leading up to the race. Additional information can also be found on the attached link to the NCAA Cross Country Championships Meet Central page.
NCAA Cross Country Championship Details
When: Saturday, Nov. 17
Time: Noon ET (Women), 1:15 p.m. ET (Men)
Host: University of Louisville
Where: E.P Tom Sawyer State Park, Louisville, KY (Directions are on attached link)
William and Mary
MAC Schools to Qualify for NCAA Women's Cross Country Championship:
Eastern Michigan 1995
Bowling Green 1996
Ball State 2002