PREVIEW: #UTTylerXC to compete in NCAA regional in Virginia

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

TYLER – The UT Tyler Patriots will compete in the NCAA Division III South/Southeast Region Cross Country Championship on Saturday at the Lee Hall Mansion Course in Newport News, Virginia. The men’s team will be represented by Will McIlroy, Matt Cecotti, Justin Tokuz, Nathan Adams, Jace Seymour, Shafen Borah and Charlie Quintero, while Patriot women competing are Rachel Willis, Theresa Simmons, Paulina Rodriguez, Amy Wyatt and Tristin Salem.

The men’s 8K is scheduled to being at 10 a.m. (CST) followed by the women’s race at 11:15 a.m. on the Christopher Newport University campus. The UT Tyler men’s team is coming off winning its eighth straight American Southwest Conference Championship, while the women took third at the conference meet. Course Map

“The men get better each meet,” UT Tyler coach Bob Hepler said. “They are a delicate group. I’ve finally learned how much I can push them before letting them recover. They are a strange group. They don’t like to speak. I’ve had to rely on telepathy to learn how they respond to workouts. Something is working.” 

UT Tyler has been led this season by sophomore Will McIlroy and freshman Matthew Cecotti. McIlroy has led the team in four of six races this season, including winning the season-opening King Campbell Spectacular and taking third at the Braveheart Invitational. McIlroy is coming off finishing fifth at the ASC Championship with a time of 27:07, while Cecotti was sixth in the race with a time of 27:09.6. Cecotti finished in eighth-place finish at the Mississippi College Invite where he ran a 27:15.91 in the 8K before the ASC Championship. 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. Tokuz finished 10th in Round Rock at the ASC meet by running a 27:21.3 and Adams was 13th with a 27:31.1 run.

“Our team average time was over one minute faster at the conference meet this year when compared to 2016,” Hepler said. “I am especially encouraged because the guys on the regional team are all healthy and getting stronger. It’s hard to say which one of the guys is going to be our top runner on Saturday. Certainly, Will McIlroy and Matt Cecotti have lead the group this year, but Justin Tokuz is a big race guy and Nathan Adams is finally at full strength after suffering a stress fracture in the spring.  Pretend you’re having a peaceful meditative walk in the woods when a giant frothing at the mouth German Shepard comes screaming out of the wilderness coming straight for you. I think the other teams will see us as that dog on Saturday.”

On the women’s side, UT Tyler has been led by senior Rachel Willis in all six meets this season. She is coming off a fifth-place finish at the ASC Championship after running a 23:57.3 two weeks ago. 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. 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. Rodriguez finished 20th at the ASC Championship with a run of 25:27.2 and Simmons was 25th with a run of 25:46.7. Wyatt and Salem were 27th and 28th at the championship.

“The women didn’t have much going for them going into the year,” Hepler said. “Their hard work and amazing improvement lead to their improbable appearance at the regional meet.  Things started coming together for them in early October.  They started realizing that they could compete with the top teams from conference.  I’m expecting big things from senior Rachel Willis and freshmen Paulina Rodriguez and Theresa Simmons.” 

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