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Ohio State cross country runs ‘strong,’ sends runners to NCAA National championships

The Ohio State men’s cross country team received an at-large bid to the 2011 NCAA National Championships on Sunday night after its fifth-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet. The women’s team finished sixth at the meet, located in Toledo, Ohio, and was not selected, but had two runners qualify individually for the national championship meet.

The men, along with junior Tori Brink and freshman Nicole Hilton of the women’s team, will compete for a national championship on Nov. 21 in Terra Haute, Ind.

The OSU men’s squad was one of 13 teams to receive an at-large selection to the 31-team field. Hilton and Brink were among 38 individual qualifiers on the women’s side.

The Buckeyes said before the meet that they wanted to finish in the top-three in the men’s race and for the women to have a top-five finish. Even though they fell short of their pre-meet goals, both teams were content with their respective performances.

“I thought we ran pretty strong actually,” OSU men’s head coach Robert Gary said.

OSU women’s assistant coach Chris Neal was also pleased.

“I was really happy,” he said. “The ladies ran their best race of the season today.”

The men had a team score of 126, placing them behind 10-time defending champion Wisconsin, as well as Indiana, Michigan and Notre Dame.

Redshirt senior Adam Green, who finished 19th, covering the 10K-course in 30:44, led the way for the OSU men. Juniors Donny Roys and Chris Fallon were right behind him, finishing 21st and 22nd in 30:48 and 30:51, respectively.

Junior Julian Meyer and redshirt senior Taylor Williams capped off the scoring for the Buckeyes, finishing 31st in 31:03 and 33rd in 31:04.

The women’s team score of 163 put them well behind Michigan, who won the meet with a score of 45. Michigan State, Toledo, Wisconsin and Notre Dame also finished ahead of OSU.

Brink and Hilton led OSU with 19th-and-20th-place finishes, covering the 6K-course in 21:08 and 21:09, respectively. Redshirt senior Jordan Jennewine finished 23rd in 21:12.

Freshman Michelle Thomas and junior Molly Jacobson rounded out the Buckeyes top five with 35th-and-66th-place finishes in 21:28 and 22:04, respectively.

Neal said that the women could have ran better, but that it wouldn’t have affected their overall place.

“When you’re 50 points back from fifth, even if our fifth (runner) would have been up where we had hoped at the beginning of the season, it still wouldn’t have made much of a difference,” he said.

Gary said that the one aspect of the race that he wasn’t happy with was the final mile.

“We were really good really until the last mile,” he said “It was disappointing that we fell from fourth to fifth over the last mile.”

Williams said his team could have done a better job helping each other out.

“We didn’t do a great job of using each other to stay where we were. We broke up a little bit at the end of the race,” he said.

After the meet, both teams were unsure whether they or individual runners would qualify for the national championship meet.

“I’m optimistic and hopeful,” Williams said following the meet. “I think the team is optimistic and really hoping that we’ll get one of those at-large bids.”

Gary agreed.

“I’d say we have about a 75 percent chance of being selected. We’ve ran good enough along the way and didn’t get beat by any teams that hadn’t been running well this year,” he said after the meet.

Neal didn’t think the women would be selected as a team, but said that Brink and Hilton should qualify individually.

“If Notre Dame can end up getting into the national meet, then we’ll get two girls out, with Tori and Nicole qualifying as individuals,” he said.

Both coaches and Williams ended up being correct.

The men were not picked to run at the national championships last season after receiving a bid in 2009, when they finished 21st.

Brink’s individual selection is the first of her career, with the 2011 season being Hilton’s first year of competition for OSU.

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