BANNER ELK, NC--Lees-McRae's men's cross country team heads to Wingate University Saturday to compete in the NCAA DII Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships with their sights set on the National Championships. Twenty-four men's teams from across the Southeast will compete in the 10k (6.2 mile) race beginning at 10:15 a.m.
For the Lees-McRae, it is senior Lewis Martin (Charlottesville, VA) leading a youthful team of Bobcats who finished 2nd in the Conference Carolinas meet two weeks ago. Martin, who holds every school record from 3000m to 10,000m, will try to earn his second NCAA bid this weekend. He qualified provisionally this past spring in the 10k for outdoor track. Helping him out will be a trio of guys, Chris Holstein (Middleburg, FL) a sophomore, senior Josh Blanc (Hope Mills, NC) and sophomore Jon Bernal (Oakton, VA).
Blanc will be running his last NCAA Southeast regional race after coming off his best collegiate performance at conference as he finished 8th overall, earning All-Conference honors for the second consecutive year.
Junior Matt Barrett (Douglasville, GA), freshman Aaron Wilkins (Dobson, NC) and sophomore Marty Monahan (Tryon, NC) will look to help guide the Bobcats to their second team national championship appearance, the last being in 2001.
"The guys are ranked 3rd in the region and have been coming on strong lately, I am looking for them to run real well. Our training has been great, and anticipations are high for them to reach their goals," said Coach McPhail.
With the top two teams in the region advancing to nationals, the Bobcats are in contention to gain the automatic bid with a strong performance this weekend. The Regional race is an additional 2k (1.2 miles) longer than the races the men have been competing in all season and should prove to be a battle of endurance and determination.
Lees-McRae has had a history of sending athletes to the National Championships as Derick Williamson qualified individually in 2000, then the entire team in 2001.
"Every year we want to be in a place to where we can go, and this is no different. Our mindset is we belong, now we just have to go out and do it," said McPhail. "At the beginning of every season we have set the goals of going to nationals and once again we are close to accomplishing this feat, it would be great for the school, program and community if we can do it again."