PRINCESS ANNE, Md.- The Thundering Herd cross country teams were on the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore campus this past weekend for the 2011 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals.
Taking place at the UMES Cross Country Course, the regional meet provided both teams and individuals the opportunity to advance to this year’s NCAA Championship, which is being held in Terra Haute, Ind., on November 21.
Marshall has never advanced to the tournament as a team, and to figure out the last time Marshall had an individual qualify for the tournament one would have to go all the way back to 1979, when Kim Nutter of the men’s team qualified for the meet. Only the top-two teams from a field of over twenty advance, and just the top-four individuals outside of those on the winning teams are given berths in the championship.
Yet even with history and the odds stacked against it, the Herd still managed to have a runner qualify for this season’s tournament for the first time in over 30 years. Senior Matt Schiffbauer, who has paced the Herd at nearly every meet this season, earned a spot in the championship with a 10th place finish in the 183 person field. His 10k time of 30:50 saw him qualify by the skin of his teeth, and helped the men’s side claim its best-ever finish at the regional event.
Schiffbauer finished 10th and earned a spot at nationals
“I am really excited for Matt’s accomplishment,” said Head Coach Jeff Small. “He has worked so hard to accomplish this goal.”
Indeed, Schiffbauer’s strong performances and relentless work-ethic have been a boost to the team all season, and now, he will reap the rewards of a championship appearance. With the top-two teams, Georgetown and Villanova, accounting for six of the top-10 runners, Schiffbauer’s 10th place finish saw him squeeze into the championship by the slimmest of margins. Not only did the Morgantown, W.Va., native claim the final spot, but he did so by a mere .1 seconds over the 11th placed Vince McNally of Penn State.
For the rest of the men’s squad, the season will draw to a close, but it can hang its hat on the fact that it finished 14th out of 25 teams, a new best for the program. Junior David Caldwell finished 79th with a time of 32:37.8, which will give him some encouragement as he prepares to lead the Herd next year in a season without Schiffbauer, who graduates this May. Finishing third and fourth for the Marshall men were seniors Chris Cole (33:10.5) and Josh Feather (33:27.4), who ended the season and their careers with 104th and 126th place finishes.
On the women’s side, the Herd was paced yet again by junior Leslie Thomas. The Montgomery, W.Va., native finished 84th amongst 199 competitors with a 6k time of 24:09.6, and like Schiffbauer on the men’s side, has led Marshall at every meet she’s raced in this season.
Fellow junior Kelley Mortakis was second on the squad with a 24:47.2 finish that was good enough for 122nd place, while Kristen Roles ended up finishing third on the team with a 157th place time of 25:35.5. Unfortunately for the ladies, no one on the team finished in the top-10, and the squad finished 24th out of 29 teams. As it was in the men’s race, Villanova and Georgetown were the top-two teams for the women, and the New Jersey Institute finished last.
With the conclusion of the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals, Marshall has now drawn an end to the 2011 season and will part ways with seniors Ryan Bowser, Chris Cole, Josh Feather, Phil Provenzane, Matt Schiffbauer, Alex Zurbuch, and Paige Govey. Schiffbauer, though, will run one more race at the NCAA Championships next weekend.