NCAA SOUTH REGIONAL MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY:

Hogs do enough, win regional title

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, November 12, 2016
Frankline Tonui (from left), Alex George and Jack Bruce approach the finish line Friday, November 11, 2016, at the NCAA South Regional at the Agri Park course in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks won the overall team title.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Frankline Tonui (from left), Alex George and Jack Bruce approach the finish line Friday, November 11, 2016, at the NCAA South Regional at the Agri Park course in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks won the overall team title.

FAYETTEVILLE -- It wasn't exactly a jog through the park Friday for the Arkansas cross country team, but the Razorbacks did some talking while running fast enough to win the men's title at the NCAA South Central Regional meet.

"I think everyone was feeling great," Arkansas sophomore Andrew Ronoh said. "We were running together and supporting each other.

"If someone started to fall back a little bit, we'd say, 'Hey, man, c'mon. Get back up here.' "

The No. 6-ranked Razorbacks had their five scorers finish among the top 22 and won with 40 points to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships next Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind. Texas finished second with 81 points to earn the regional's other automatic NCAA bid.

Ronoh ran the 10,000-meter course at Arkansas' Agri Park in 30 minutes, .02 seconds to take second behind Tulane sophomore Emmanuel Rotich, who won in 29:58.9.

It was Arkansas' fourth consecutive regional title and 36th overall.

"It keeps piling up, but we don't take anything for granted," Razorbacks Coach Chris Bucknam said. "We've got a great tradition.

"Now we want to go to nationals and make as much noise as we can."

Friday's race was about the Razorbacks running well enough to win, but not overextending themselves eight days before nationals.

"We tried to keep the brakes on for the most part and still get a good, crisp run in," Bucknam said.

Other scorers for the Razorbacks were juniors Alex George (fifth) and Jack Bruce (sixth) and seniors Frankline Tonui (seventh) and Aidan Swain (22nd).

"Coach told us, 'Don't do something crazy. Run as a team and help each other,' and that's what we did," Ronoh said. "We all stuck to the plan."

George, who won the SEC title two weeks ago when the Razorbacks took the team championship, said Friday's race felt like a good training run.

"We had a little bit of conversation, a little bit of fun just trying to keep everybody running under control," George said. "We wanted to make sure we all stayed together.

"We ran the first mile pretty hard, then settled in and made a little burst the final mile to make sure we got the job done."

It was Ronoh's second race this season since he recovered from a right Achilles tendon injury. He was sixth at the SEC meet.

"I'm feeling great right now," Ronoh said. "I'm expecting more."

Bucknam credited Arkansas' training staff with bringing Ronoh along gradually.

"It's been a sixth-month process to get him to where he is right now, and he's basically just been running for a month," Bucknam said. "He looks good. He's got a smile on his face and he's back fit."

Ronoh felt good enough to sprint the final meters Friday.

"It's a great confidence boost having Andrew running with us again," George said. "He's a quality athlete and has shown great potential."

Sports on 11/12/2016

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