Cross country teams head to NCAA Southeast Regionals

Andrew Weigel

With the regular season behind them, the WKU men’s and women’s cross country teams are set to compete in the NCAA Southeast Regional in Charlottesville, Va. on Friday.

Junior David Mokone will lead the Toppers in their second postseason meet of the year.

Mokone is coming off a first-place finish at the Sun Belt Conference Championships and was just named the Sun Belt Conference’s Most Outstanding Performer. He also earned first-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors for the third year in a row.

The Toppers are sending the same group of runners that led WKU to a No. 5 team finish at the Conference Championships on Nov. 2. Mokone, freshman Peter Agaba, sophomore Aaron Stevens, junior Kamohelo Mangoejane, and sophomore Lucas Atherton represent WKU on Friday.

The competition in Charlottesville will be the toughest competition the Topper teams have faced all year, said coach Erik Jenkins.

“The Southeast is the best region in the country,” said Jenkins. “The last few years we’ve had people finish in the top 15 and in any other region that would’ve been top five.”

Agaba, a freshman from Uganda, is coming off an eighth-place finish in the conference championships where he also secured second team All-Sun Belt honors. His was the second-fastest time among all freshmen in the field. He also finished No. 5 overall in the Evansville Invitational, his first career race.

“Peter is a very young runner without a lot of experience, but he has some ability,” said Jenkins. “For him to finish top 10 in only his second week competing for us is great. I expect him to continue to improve. He has good upside.”

The Lady Toppers, led by sophomores Lindsey Hinken and Katie Lever, are coming off a third-place team finish at the conference championships.

The youthful Lady Toppers are looking to gain experience in an environment that many of the runners haven’t seen yet.

Assistant coach Taylor Miller is eager to see how the young team performs in the NCAA Regional meet.

“We haven’t seen anything close to the talent pool we’ll see on Friday,” said Miller. “It’s arguably the best region in the country and it’ll be great experience for our runners to rub elbows with some of the top runners in the country.

Miller said shooting for a championship with such an inexperienced team is a stretch, and that team is more focused on gaining valuable experience.

“We want to go out there, have fun, and gain experience for next season,” Miller said.

Jenkins said that experience should help WKU in the future.

“They are getting a good opportunity to compete against some of the best, and that only bodes well for us in the future,” Jenkins said.