With a tight pack of scorers, the Ole Miss women's cross country team stole the crown out of the NCAA South Region on Friday morning in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Led by a top-five pack that spread from seventh to 16th place, Ole Miss scored a winning total of 59 points to beat runner-up Georgia's 73 points.
Ole Miss's winning performance marked the program's first NCAA South Region title.
Georgia maybe have scored two of the top three individual spots with Samantha Drop and her twin sister Jessica finishing first and third, but the Bulldogs were no match for the Ole Miss stronghold.
With top two team finishes in the books, both Ole Miss and Georgia have earned the automatic qualifying spots to the 2017 NCAA Cross Country Championships. The Bulldogs' performance marked the team's first NCAA qualifying berth since 2012.
Led by a runner-up individual finish from NCAA indoor mile champion Karisa Nelson, Samford earned the third-place trophy. The team scored 94 points to finish ahead of Florida State and Georgia Tech.
The men's race proved to be a thrilling battle up front between the Alabama trio of Gilbert Kigen, Alfred Chelanga, and Vincent Kiprop and the Middle Tennessee State duo of Jacob Choge and Kigen Chemadi. Kigen pulled away for the victory with a winning time of 29:44 over his teammate Chelanga and region rival Choge.
Despite the strength of the front-running trio, Alabama will likely not be contending at the NCAA championships as a full team. Alabama collected a third-place finish over race winner Middle Tennessee State and runner-up Ole Miss. But Kigen, Chelanga, and Kiprop have officially qualified as individuals to the championship. Tune into the Kolas LIVE Selection show to find out if Alabama makes it to NCAAs as a team based on the results of the following region championships.
The Blue Raiders pulled away from Ole Miss to collect a close team victory with 71 points, just five points less than Ole Miss. Both Middle Tennessee and Ole Miss will contend at the NCAA championships after collecting top-two team finishes and automatic qualifying spots out of the South Region.
Note: The at-large teams are based on the FloTrack NCAA Cross Country projections and are not the official selection of the NCAA.
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