|BLUE MOUNTAIN, Miss. – Four runners from Blue Mountain College have qualified for the NAIA National Cross Country Championship set for Saturday in Vancouver, Wash.
Kelsea Hendrix and Latifa Swims will compete in the women’s 5k race at Fort Vancouver National Historical Site, and Austin Epting and Carter Witt will complete in the 8k men’s race.
“It’s been a phenomenal season for us,” said Phillip Laney, BMC’s first-year coach who led the Lady Toppers to the TranSouth Athletic Conference championship -- the first NAIA league title in the school’s history. The men’s team finished second in the conference.
“To end up going to the Nationals is really something special,” added Laney, who was named the TSAC Women’s Coach of the Year. “It shows that all the hard work they’ve put in since last year has paid off.”
It will be the second time to compete in the National Championships for Epting and Swims.
Epting, a senior from Baldwyn and East Union, was the TSAC Runner of the Year and all-conference for the fourth time. He won the TSAC championship, finished second in the Choctaw Invitational and eighth in the Rhodes Invitational, and was twice named the league’s Runner of the Week.
Swims, a sophomore from Carrollton and last year’s Newcomer of the Year in the conference, ran injured most of the season but finished strong with a second-place finish in the league race and 31st of 118 runners in the Choctaw Invitational.
Hendrix, a sophomore from Corinth, was third in the TSAC championship and second in the Choctaw Invitational, and was twice named TSAC Runner of the Week.
Witt, a freshman from Dardanelle, Ark., was named the TSAC Newcomer of the Year after a second-place finish in the TSAC race, 29th in the Choctaw Invitational and a top 20 in the Rhodes Invitational.
Laney admitted he was a bit disappointed that the entire women’s team did not get selected for the national meet, “but we did what we could do.”
“We accomplished our main goal, and that was to win the conference championship,” he said. “After that it was out of our hands. You live and learn and move on -- and try to get there next year.”