Thirteen UCA cross country team members ran at the NCAA South Central Cross Country Regional competition Nov. 15 and left with a top 10 finisher who will compete at the national competition.
Freshman Brooke Cassar earned a spot in the Southland Conference national championship competition, which will be held at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind. on Saturday.
“The [regional]competition was extremely tough, so it made everyone push themselves to literal exhaustion,” senior Erika Setzler said.
Cassar, from Woonona, New South Wales, Australia, finished the 6k in 20:32.5, which was good enough to break UCA’s record and finish seventh to qualify for nationals.
Cassar won the 2013 Southland Conference Cross Country Championship meet in Lake Charles, La. in a time of 20:42.1, which earned her a trip to regionals and two titles — Freshman of the Year and SLC Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
She said she enjoyed the opportunity and the team she ran with.
Assistant Coach John Jones instructed Cassar before the race to “stick with the Razorbacks,” she said.
“Coach’s plan was to stick with the [University of Arkansas—Fayetteville] Razorbacks,” she said. “I did that pretty well because two Razorbacks beat me and I beat five and I beat my personal record by 10 seconds, so I definitely left it all out there.”
Setzler, who placed third at the championship meet, finished behind Cassar in 18th place with a time of 21:06.3.
“I feel extremely accomplished,” she said. “I didn’t make it to nationals like I wanted to, but the field was tough and I tied my best time for a 6k so there wasn’t much else I could do.”
Overall, Setzler said it was her best season yet.
“I couldn’t be happier,” she said. “Regionals is such a great privilege. Me and Brooke both wanted to go to nationals together and worked our butts off trying to get there together.”
Rolling hills made the course tough on the runners, she said.
To prepare for regionals, Setzler said the team participated in hill repeat drills since they already knew how the track would be.
“We kept our volume up the week after conference and did a few hill repeats, then we tapered about five days prior to the race.”
Following Setzler on the women’s team was senior Kayla Nehus, who placed 59th in a time of 21:06.3. Freshman Brigette Caruthers finished 65th (22:27.9), graduate student Megan Effinger finished 104th (23:30.8), sophomore Madison Sewell finished 106th (23:30.8) and freshman Briana Stuepfert finished 124th (24:26.0).
The men’s team saw a top 20 finisher out of senior Edward Limo, who finished a second behind what he ran at last year’s 10k regional competition.
Limo, from Eldoret, Kenya, finished in 30:59.4, which helped lead the Bears to an overall 11th place finish.
Senior Amos Gerber finished 44th with a time of 31:45.3, followed by junior Jonathan Burgess, who placed 61st in 32:18.9. Sophomore Corentin Louis finished 67th (32:29.4), freshman Grant Williams finished 79th (32:44.5), sophomore Albert Maeder finished 115th (33:53.3) and Ryan Davidson finished 116th (33:54.9).
Overall, Fayetteville won the mens’s and women’s competition.
“[Regionals] was a great way to finish my last cross country season,” Setzler said. “I’m so happy to have made the All-Regional team and run with such an amazing team.”