Hounds win regional meet, qualify for NCAA Division II nationals

CNJ staff

WICHITA FALLS, Texas — The Eastern New Mexico University men’s cross country team is headed for the NCAA Division II nationals for the first time.

The Greyhounds punched their ticket to the Nov. 19 event in Spokane, Wash., edging out East Central 53-59 for team honors in Saturday’s South Central Region meet, hosted by Midwestern State.

The top two teams, plus top two individuals on non-qualifying teams, advance to national competition in two weeks. It’s the school’s first trip to a national cross country meet since winning an NAIA championship back in the early 1970s.

Central Missouri, considered one of the regional favorites, had the individual winner in Laban Sialo in 30 minutes, 33.2 seconds over 10 kilometers, but the Mules finished a distant third with 97 points.

ENMU’s women, meantime, moved up six spots from last year’s regional to finish 10th with 233 points. Host MSU won the team title with 102 points to 118 for runnerup Pittsburg State.

Junior Isaiah Samoei led the Greyhounds with a second-place finish in a time of 31:05.3, leading five ENMU runners in the top 18. The top 25 earned all-region status.

“I told the guys last night that for us to qualify or win it was going to come down to about five points,” ENMU coach Mike Harney said. “We passed about eight people over the last 1,000 meters. We won the meet in the last 1,000 meters.”

Senior Kipruto Tallam finished ninth in 31:41.2, senior Mohamed Noor was 13th in 31:53.3, junior Jacob Lozano placed 15th in 31:58.4 and freshman Tyler Saiz was 18th in 32:18.9. Harney said Samoei, Tallam and Noor all broke the school’s 10K record, previously held by Nimrod Lelei at 32:07.

For the Zias, senior Nicky Reid earned all-region honors, finishing 23rd in the women’s 6K with a time of 22:39.5. Sophomore Adrienne Montoya was next in 39th place at 23:08.6.

The women reached their team goal of a top 10 finish.

“They really stepped it up today,” Harney said.

Meantime, the men are ranked ninth nationally as a team, and are looking to take one final big step.

“Part of having fun is winning and running personal bests,” Harney said. “But we have some unfinished business.

“We have to stay focused. I think we have an outside shot at finishing in the top five. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do at Spokane.”