The men’s cross country team continued its run atop the American Conference, while the women stumbled to fourth place. Both will continue their seasons at the NCAA Midwest Regionals.
Led by senior Ben Preisner’s third place finish with a time of 25:12.5, the University of Tulsa men’s cross country team won a narrow victory in the American Athletic Conference championship last weekend. The 8k race was held at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia. It was the fourth consecutive AAC crown for the Golden Hurricane and eighth conference title in a row dating back to TU’s membership in Conference USA.
One year after blowing away the field and having seven runners finish all-conference by placing in the top 15 (including individual conference champion Luke Traynor), the team faced a great deal more competition in 2017, scoring 53 points and finishing just 10 ahead of second-place Connecticut. UConn actually saw all seven of its varsity athletes finish before Tulsa’s fifth runner completed their scoring but the high finishes of Preisner, freshman Scott Beattie (fifth, 25:23.9) and seniors Henry Pearce and Adam Roderique (ninth, 25:43.7 and 12th, 25:48.0 respectively) were enough to put the Golden Hurricane over the top.
After the meet, head coach Steve Gulley praised his team’s effort. “I’m really proud of our team because we really came together today. We’re very fortunate because the conference is dramatically better than previous years.” TU’s coaching staff was named the Staff of the Year.
Preisner’s impressive showing marked the third time he has recorded a top three finish at the conference championships. Roderique earned his fourth all-conference nod and Pearce his second, while Beattie was named the American’s Freshman of the Year after finishing three spots and fifteen seconds ahead of the next rookie, Temple’s Anton Harrsen.
After winning the conference in 2014 and ‘15 and losing out to SMU by a mere two points last year, the women’s team hoped to keep pace with the men and get back on top. Unfortunately they fell to fourth behind Temple, SMU and dominant UConn, which placed three runners in the top five on its way to 34 points. Sophomore Ashley Barnes led the scoring for Tulsa, finishing in ninth place with a time of 21:59.4. Just missing out on all-conference honors was freshman Caitlin Klopfer who finished a mere two seconds behind the 15th place finisher. Fortunately, the future looks bright for the Golden Hurricane, who put out one of the youngest teams in the field. Of TU’s seven runners featured in the championship, five are underclassmen.
Both teams will look to continue their success at the NCAA Midwest Regionals on Nov. 10 in Ames, Iowa.