Arkansas State Track competes at the NCAA South Central Regional

From the Sun Belt Conference

Several Sun Belt Conference runners will compete in the NCAA Regional Championships on Saturday for the chance to advance to the NCAA Championships.

Sun Belt teams will be competing in the South Regional (Tuscaloosa, Ala.), South Central Regional (Waco, Texas) and the Southeast Regional (Louisville, Ky.).

Arkansas State will send eight athletes to compete at the NCAA South Central Regional. Sam Salinas, Chelsea Weaver and Rexi Parcells are expected to pace the women on the 6,000-meter course. The trio led the women to a tie for second at the Brooks Twilight Run Sept. 3, a second place finish at the UALR Invitational Sept. 23 and a fifth place finish at the Sun Belt Championships on Oct. 29. Last year at the South Central Regional, the women finished 12th and are hoping to improve on that record this weekend.

The ASU men will be represented by junior David Mills, who has lead the men's team all year with the exception of one race. Mills placed fourth at the UALR Invitational and 22nd at the Greater Louisville Classic Oct. 1.

Highlighting the field from the league will be Sun Belt Conference Champions Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers swept the men's and women's conference championships for the eighth time in program history, and the women's team won their sixth consecutive SBC Championship and the program's 17th overall. The Lady Toppers are currently riding the longest conference winning streak in the nation at 18 consecutive crowns, having won every SBC cross country, indoor, and outdoor team title since 2006.

For the second consecutive year, WKU's Marion Kandie won the women's 5k, crossing the line at 17:21.5. Vasity Chemweno (18:00.1) came in at fourth, followed by Michelle Finn (18:21.2) in eighth. Kandie, Chemweno and Finn all placed in the top 10 for the second consecutive year.

The WKU men had four runners finish in the top 10 to secure the team championship for their first cross country title since 2008 and the program's 15th overall. WKU's Deus Rwaheru was the runner-up for the second consecutive season, finishing the 8k course in 24:27.5. After Rwaheru, David Makone finished fourth at 24:47.0 as the top freshman finisher and was named the men's Freshman of the Year. Peter Okwera placed just behind Makone at 24:53.1, followed by Kyle Chettleburgh in ninth at 25:28.5.

Middle Tennessee will be looking to qualify its first runners in the NCAA Championships since Festus Chemaoi and Zamzam Sangau each reached the Championships in 2009. Justus David will aim to continue his remarkable season on Saturday as he has claimed three individual meet titles to go along with second- and third-place finishes. The senior is coming off winning the Sun Belt men's individual title on Oct. 29. Robinson Simatei has collected four top-10 finishes this season including a sixth-place finish at the Sun Belt Championships. Meanwhile Keith Davis has saved his best performances for last, placing 11th at the Front Runner Invitational on Oct. 15 while finishing 18th at the conference championships.

Lucy Kapkiai has led the Blue Raider women all season, picking up three individual meet titles and accumulating a total of five top-10 finishes. The Eldoret, Kenya, native finished second at the Sun Belt Championships with a 5k time of 17:45.70. Like Davis, Autumn Gipson has come on strong at the end of the 2011 season. She finished third at the Front Runner Invitational in Chattanooga, Tenn., and followed up the performance by placing 21stt in Bowling Green.

UALR's men's team was the runner-up at the SBC Championship with Felix Maritim and Dustin Mettler receiving All-Conference honors after finishing seventh (25:19.0) and eighth (25:24.7), respectively.

The Trojan women placed fourth, with Erika LaCroix and Sanna Mustonen leading the way for UALR by earning All-Sun Belt honors. LaCroix was the top Trojan finisher placing seventh for the 5K in 18:19.2, while Mustonen placed tenth in 18:27.8.

Leading the way for North Texas will be Ingrid Mollenkompf and Sara Dietz, both all-conference runners who helped lead the Mean Green women to a runner-up finish at the conference championship. Mollenkompf completed the 5k in 17:52.6 for third place, followed by Dietz in sixth at 18:15.6.

Representing Florida Atlantic in the South Region will be Rebecca Hallam and Michelle Jax. Hallam earned all-conference honors at October's Sun Belt Conference meet for the second consecutive season with a time of 18:21.5 while Jax was the second-highest freshman finisher at the SBC meet, clocking in at 18:31.4 to finish just outside the top 10.

Juniors Daniel Mutai and Silah Chumba, along with senior Moses will represent Louisiana-Monroe in the South Central Regional. Mutai compiled a solid individual season for ULM, placing first in four of the five races he entered.  The native of Kapsabet, Kenya, shared first with Chumba at the McNeese Cross Country Relay Sept. 2, and recorded the top overall time at the Warhawk Invitational, the SLC Pre-Conference Meet (Sept. 26) and the NSU Invitational (Oct. 3).  Racing against the largest field of the regular season at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival Oct. 15, Mutai finished 33rd out of more than 250 runners. Mutai placed third at the SBC Championship by clocking in at 18:28.1. The three ULM runners finished in the top 20 at the SBC Championships: Mutai in third at 24:28.1, followed by Chelimo in 15th (26:06.2) and Chumba in 20th (26.28.6).

South Alabama is led by Tori Lawson, who claimed fifth place at the Sun Belt Conference Cross Country Championships. Lawson led the Lady Jags in each of the team's four meets during the regular season, and claimed individual victories at the Azalea City Classic and Choctaw Open. Lawson was awarded SBC Runner-of-the-Week honors for her 22:52.28 6-kilometer effort at Azalea, helping the women's team to its first of two victories during the season. In 2009, she and junior men's runner Alex Shields were awarded Freshman of the Year honors.

The top two teams from every region will advance automatically to the 2011 NCAA National Championships. The rest of the 31-team field, which includes 13 at-large participants, will be announced on Sunday, Nov. 13.