South Regional Notes
Nov. 9, 2005
AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn men and women's cross country teams continue postseason play Saturday, Nov. 12 at the NCAA South Regional in Gainesville, Fla. The meet will commence with the men's 10K at 9 a.m., followed by the women's 6K at 10 a.m. The meet will be held at the University of Florida Golf Course and will be hosted by Florida.
What's at Stake
Both the men and women will be looking to leave a permanent mark on the Auburn cross country program when they travel to the South Regional. At stake for both squads is an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. In order to qualify for one of the 31 coveted spots at the championships, the Tigers must finish in the top two at the South Regional or hope for one of the 13 at large berths. The field at the championships is made up of the top-two teams from the nine regionals and 13 at large berths, which are determined by the track and field committee.
Oh so Close
In the past two seasons, the Tigers have had strong finishes at regionals and have been teetering on the brink of qualifying for the NCAA Championships. Last season, the men finished fourth and the women placed fifth at the meet held in Tuscaloosa, Ala. In 2003, the women's team finished fourth.
The Tigers may have just missed out on qualifying for the championships in recent history, but they will be looking to keep their streak of having individuals qualify for the championships in tact at the South Regional. The women have had an individual qualifier the last three seasons and the men had one last year. Beginning in 2002 when former AU athlete Catherine Wanyoike became just the sixth individual in Auburn history to compete at the women's NCAA Championships, the Tigers have been represented at the event every year. The past two seasons, senior Angela Homan has more than just represented for Auburn. In 2003, Homan placed 40th as a sophomore and last year, she finished ninth. On the men's side, sophomore Chris Walsh became just the second male in Auburn history to compete at the NCAA Championships when he placed 73rd last year.
Because of the NCAA rule of limiting each lineup to seven at NCAA regionals, head coach Peter Watson trimmed his lineup and is using the top-seven finishers from the SEC Championships.The only variation from the lineup at the SEC Championships is the subtraction of senior Joey Giattino and junior Denise Daughenbaugh. The men's team has a veteran lineup of three seniors, two juniors and two sophomores, while the women's lineup is young and is comprised of two seniors, one junior and four sophomores. The men's lineup consists of seniors Andrew Heath, Clay Askew and Matt Tillman, juniors Patrick Mouser and Patrick Philbin and sophomores Chris Walsh and Jordan Davis. The women's lineup features seniors Angela Homan and Dawn Morgan, junior Alayne Thompson and sophomores Becca Bell, Megan Karl, Jessica Smith and Laura Steele.The top seven from the men's lineup has been the same every race, earning three top-four finishes.
Homan Makes History
Senior Angela Homan has had many athletic and academic accomplishments in her time at Auburn, but they all pale in comparison to what she did on Oct. 29 at the SEC Championships. For the third straight season, Homan won the SEC Championship and became just the second female to ever win three conference titles. Homan won the 6K in a personal-best time of 19:40.00. Her mark eclipsed her previous time of 20:25.83 at the 2004 South Regional.
Following her feat of three conference titles, Homan was selected USA Track & Field's Athlete of the Week on Nov. 1. She also received the same honor on Nov. 6, when College Sports Television (CSTV) named her Student-Athlete of the Week. Later on this month, Homan will be honored by Sports Illustrated and will be featured in the Faces in the Crowd section of the publication.
Last Time Out
Angela Homan's third straight conference title highlighted the day at the 2005 SEC Championships. As for the teams, the men earned their second consecutive top-five finish in the conference, as they placed fifth with 156 points. Homan's victory wasn't enough to pull the women's team to the top half of the conference, as the they finished ninth.
The men's fifth-place finish came on the heels of a fourth-place finish in 2004. The men were led by sophomore Chris Walsh for the third straight meet. Walsh placed 19th with a time of 23:58.21. He was followed by sophomore Jordan Davis, who finished 31st (24:26.19). It was the first time this season that Walsh and senior Andrew Heath were not the top-two finishers for Auburn. Heath was the third Tiger to cross the line, finishing 32nd in a time of 24:27.38. Arkansas won the team title for the 15th straight season with 23 points. Arkansas' senior Josphat Boit defended his individual title in a time of 22:59.
After finishing in the top five of the SEC two of the past three years, the Tigers finished in ninth at the championships. Despite Homan's victory, the Tigers were unable to collect enough low times to finish in the top half. The second Tiger to cross the line was senior Dawn Morgan, who finished 56th in a time of 21:59.57. Sophomore Megan Karl finished in 57th in a time of 22:04.35. Tennessee won the team title with 48 points.
After finishing second to teammate Andrew Heath in the first two meets, sophomore Chris Walsh has been the Tigers' top finisher in the last three meets. Walsh has heated up as the season has progressed and is performing his best when it is most crucial for the Tigers. On the year, Walsh has four top-20 finishes and two top 10s.
In the most recent poll released on Nov. 1 by the United States Cross Country Coaches of America (USCCCA), the men's team is ranked fifth in the South Region. The women's team is not currently ranked. Outdistancing Opponents One Tiger who excels at longer distances is Angela Homan. Homan has won five of her 12 6K races and she has placed in the top 10 in nine of the 12 races.
Compared with the rest of the conference Auburn's individual times stack up well against the SEC. For the women, Angela Homan has the top time in the conference for both the 5K and 6K. Homan's time of 16:56.60 in the Auburn Inv. 5K is tops in the conference. In the 6K, Homan's time of 19:40.00 in the SEC Championship is the best in the SEC. For the men, both Chris Walsh and Andrew Heath rank in the top six for their times in the 8K at the Auburn Invitational. Walsh is fifth in the conference with a time of 24:03.71 and Heath is sixth with a time of 24:04.54.
Andrew Heath and Chris Walsh have been the top finishers for the men in four of five races this season. Last year, the duo finished first and second for the Tigers in three of five meets. This season, Heath has placed second, 10th, sixth, 98th and 32nd while Walsh has finished fourth, 19th, fifth, 92nd and 19th.
Making His Mark
Andrew Heath began his senior campaign on a torrid pace. In five meets, Heath has garnered three top-10 finishes and set a new personal record twice. He opened the season at the Florida State Inv., where he placed second. The Marietta, Ga., native followed up his second-place finish by setting a new personal record in the 8K at the Paul Short Inv. Heath finished in a time of 24:10.1, while placing 10th. At the Auburn Inv., Heath once again set a new personal record, as he placed sixth in a time of 24:04.54.
Peter Watson begins his first season as the coach of the cross country program. Watson takes over for former coach Chris Fox, who was hired as the head track and field coach at Syracuse after three seasons at Auburn. Watson is a 2001 graduate of West Virginia, where he was a four-year letterman on both the track and cross country teams. A native of London, Ontario, Canada, Watson participated in the 2000 and 2001 Canadian National Track and Field Championships. Prior to coming to Auburn, Watson ran professionally, while training in Boulder, Colorado, and Kenya, Africa.
Homan's a Hit
In the four meets this fall, Homan has placed first two times and finished seventh and fourth. Homan's victories have come at the SEC Championships and the Florida State Invitational. Homan's win at the SEC Championships was the 10th of her career. In all, Homan has won seven of her last 11 events and nine of her last 15. In 2004, Homan won every race leading up to the NCAA Championships, where she placed ninth. Homan has won three straight SEC Championships and is a two-time All-American.