Harrell and Johnsen advance to national meet

GO CARDINALS <b>Matt Johnsen</b>
GO CARDINALS
Matt Johnsen
GO CARDINALS

Nov. 15, 2013

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WACO - Matt Johnsen sealed his fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA National Championships, and this time he'll have company as the Lamar men's and women's cross country teams competed at the NCAA South Central Regional on Friday at Cottonwood Creek Golf Club.

Johnsen, who finished fifth with a time of 29:59.7 for the 10,000-meter course, will be looking to repeat his performance at the national meet last season, where the Broulee, Australia, native ended 33rd and earned All-American honors from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Ash Harrell will be joining Johnsen on the flight to Terre Haute after finishing 11th with a time of 30:28.1. He and Johnson mark the first Cardinal duo to earn a trip to the final meet of the season since Samuel Kosgei and Francis Kasagule accomplished the feat in 2008.

"I thought we did really well on the men's side today, and I think we did about as much as we could," cross country coach Darren Gauson said. "We had some really big performances and some other people step up. Any time that you can have two people qualify for the National Championships, it's not a bad day, and I'm very happy for those guys."

Overall, the LU men placed third, marking the best finish for the program since 2010. The LU women finished seventh, the best showing since 2007.

"The women have come a really long way since last year," Gauson explained. "We had seven new girls out there competing. We're trying to get into that zone of teams that qualify for nationals, and moving from 15th last year to seventh this year is a big step in the right direction. We'll hopefully continue to make those strides."

Arkansas' Stanley Kebenei and Kemoy Campbell finished at virtually the same time, with the former earning top honors, to lead the Razorbacks to a team championship. Texas finished second.

Texas' Marielle Hall won the individual race on the women's side, and Arkansas picked up the team title.

After missing most of his training over the past several weeks due to injury, Ryan Saunders made his return on Friday, finishing 27th at 31:10.8. Sam Stabler was the fourth-best LU finisher, coming in 29th at 31:14.2, and Mike Kershaw rounded out the scoring, ending 38th in 31:36.1.

Ryan Creech placed 97th at 33:22.7.

Leigh Lattimore led the effort for the LU women, and placed 14th with a time of 20:50.2 for the 6,000-meter race. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for the England native to earn a trip to the national meet.

"Leigh came in and competed a really high level for us, both in training and in meets," Gauson said. "She's a good leader for the other girls out there, and she was a very important part of the team this year."

Louise Webb was the second-best finisher for the Lady Cards, coming in 19th at 21:08.3, and Rachel Robinson was 40th at 21:52.4. Kayla de Bondt and Claire Arnold were the final two scorers, finishing 56th and 63rd, respectively, with times of 22:17.1 and 22:26.0.

Megan Flanagan was 84th at 22:59.4, and Belinda Aguilar finished 94th at 23:19.9.

Following the meet, Johnsen, Harrell, Lattimore and Webb were each named All-Region by the USTFCCCA.

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