Pioneers ready for NCAA Southeast Regional meet

Pioneers ready for NCAA Southeast Regional meet

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University men's and women's cross country teams will compete at the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Saturday morning at the University of North Georgia's Gainesville campus in Oakwood, Georgia.

The Pioneers finished seventh in both the men's and women's races at the South Atlantic Conference Championship meet two weeks ago in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The men's 10-kilometer race will begin at 9 a.m., followed by the women's 6-kilometer race at 10:15 a.m.

The top three teams will advance to the 2018 NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh on December 1. The top two individuals not part of a qualifying team (either automatic or at-large) will also advance to the national championship meet.

The Tusculum men spent three weeks in the US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association regional top 10 this season. The Pioneers finished 16th in last year's regional meet, but have just one runner entered in this year's event who competed in the 2017 regional at Wingate.

Sophomore Jackson Beason finished 15th overall in the SAC Championship meet, and was Tusculum's top finisher in last year's regional with a time of 34:34.88. Freshman Kyler Hodges joined Beason in earning honorable mention All-SAC honors this year after finishing 21st overall in the conference meet.

Junior T.J. Tupps is joined by freshman Carson Walls, junior Kyle Stanley and sophomore Isaac Hybarger in the Tusculum lineup. Tupps finished 36th overall at the SAC Championship, followed by Walls in 74th place and Hybarger in 86th. Stanley did not run at the SAC Championship meet, but did compete in four regular-season races with a best finish of 26th at the Lenoir-Rhyne Classic on Oct. 19.

Mount Olive is the defending region champion after beating out Queens and Augusta at last year's championship meet.

Due to injury and illness, Tusculum did not place at last year's Southeast Region championship meet. Two of the three runners who competed for the Pioneers are back this year, in junior Alissa Furches and junior Brooklyn Smith.

Furches finished 46th place overall in last year's regional meet with a time of 24:28.33, while Smith was in 119th place in 27:03.95. At this year's SAC championship, Furches finished 25th in 23:54.6 and Smith was 56th in a time of 25:47.8.

The Pioneers, who finished seventh in the conference championship meet two weeks ago, will look to senior Nicole McMillen to lead the way. McMillen, a four-year starter in women's soccer who was a member of the inaugural Tusculum track and field team last year, participated at the SAC Championship meet and finished fifth overall in her first collegiate cross country meet with a time of 22:26.2, earning her first-team All-Conference honors.

Also in the lineup for the Pioneers are sophomore Yoland Boyce, senior Makenzi Alley, sophomore Angel Quay and sophomore Judith Chepkirui. Alley is the lone member of the group to have previously run at the Southeast Regional, finishing third on the team and 132nd overall in 2016 with a time of 25:54.84. Alley was 62nd overall at the SAC Championship, while Boyce finished 52nd, Quay in 75th and Chepkirui in 84th place.

Queens, which won the SAC Championship two weeks ago, is the reigning Southeast Region champion with Anderson and Mount Olive finishing second and third, respectively.