PREVIEW: #UTTylerXC set for ASC Championship

Thursday, October 26, 2017
by Wes Bloomquist |

TYLER – UT Tyler is set to compete at the American Southwest Conference Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock with the men looking to win their eighth straight and 12th overall title while the women are four-time champions of the event.

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The championship races are set to begin at 8:15 a.m. starting with the men’s 8K, followed by the women at 9 a.m. on a 6K course. UT Tyler’s men’s team won the event race last year and has won 11 of the past 12 championship meets, while the women finished third last year after having won the previous three years.

“The men will be pushed very hard by UT Dallas, McMurry and LeTourneau,” UT Tyler coach Bob Hepler said. “We will need all of our top seven to have their best race to hold off these other schools. The conference has never been stronger.”

UT Tyler has been led this season by sophomore Will McIlroy and freshman Matthew Cecotti. McIlroy has led the team in three of five races this season, including winning the season-opening King Campbell Spectacular and taking third at the Braveheart Invitational. He finished sixth at the ETBU Tiger Invitational and ran a 27:07 for his top 8K time of the year. Cecotti is coming off an eighth-place finish at the Mississippi College Invite where he ran a 27:15.91 in the 8K. UT Tyler’s depth includes Nathan Adams, Justin Tokuz and Shafen Borah. Amongst the ASC leaders, McIlroy’s time at ETBU is the fourth best and Cecotti’s in Mississippi the sixth best 8K time of the season.

“The biggest progress for the year is the fact that our No. 5 and No. 6 runners continue to close the gap with our top guys,” Hepler said. “Now we need our No. 7 to step up too. I’m expecting big things from Justin Tokuz, Shafen Borah, Jace Seymour and Charlie Quintero this weekend. We’ll need them to have a chance.”

 Ozarks’ Michael Harris comes into the meet with an 8K time of 26:45 to lead the conference.

On the women’s side, UT Tyler has been led by senior Rachel Willis in all five regular-season meets. A Hallsville native, Willis finished third at the ETBU Tiger Invitational with a time of 23:53.0 on its 6K course after opening the season with a King Campbell Spectacular win. She finished 16th of 119 two weeks ago in Mississippi where she ran a 20:05.23 on a 5K course. Her time at ETBU is currently the third best 6K time in the ASC with UT Dallas’ Lindsey Rayborn having a time of 22:47.7 to lead the conference entering Saturday’s race in Round Rock.

The Patriots will also look for solid results from freshman Theresa Simmons who finished 15th at ETBU with a 25:30.7 in the 6K race and Paulina Rodriguez who has only run two races this season but took 11th at ETBU with a time of 25:01.8 in the 6K and then ran a 21:54.38 two weeks ago in Mississippi.

“The ladies came into the year a 4th or 5th place team,” Hepler said. “Now they have a serious chance to be top two and advance to the NCAA Regional meet. UT Dallas is the favorite and McMurry and LeTourneau will go toe to toe with us. Rachel is our undisputed Queen. She continues to get better and better and we are hoping for a top three finish from her. Michaela continues to improve each week and has made the transition from track sprinter to strong distance runner, while freshmen Theresa Simmons and Paulina Rodriguez are two of the best athletes we’ve ever had. Our team’s place will most likely be determine by our fifth-place runner. Tristin Salem, Amy Wyatt, Courtney Smith, Lianne McKee or Kiara Mayfield really need to run like they are possessed by an ostrich.”