OAKWOOD, Ga. --- Tusculum University senior Nicole McMillen qualified for the NCAA Division II Women's Cross Country Championships by finishing fifth overall in the Southeast Regional Saturday morning at the University of North Georgia's Gainesville campus.
McMillen is a four-year starter on the Pioneer women's soccer team who had not run a collegiate cross country race until finishing fifth at the South Atlantic Conference Championships two weeks ago. The Pickering, Ontario native covered the six-kilometer course in 22:29.19 to join Tusculum and SAC Hall of Famer Amanda Musick (2001, 2003, 2004) and Sue Lewis (2001) as the only Pioneers to qualify for nationals.
McMillen's performance helped the Pioneer women to a 15th-place finish in the field of 23 teams. McMillen will run at the NCAA Division II Women's Cross Country Championship on Saturday, December 1 at Schenley Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In the men's race, freshman Kyler Hodges finished 29th overall to lead the Pioneers to a 14th-place finish in the field of 22 teams.
McMillen's time of 22:29.19 was less than 50 seconds behind the winning time of 21:39.36 from Leah Hanle of Mount Olive. McMillen placed second among all SAC runners, behind conference champion Domtila Kiplagat of Lenoir-Rhyne who was second overall with a time of 21:50.52. McMillen also finished behind Celine Ritter of Mount Olive (22:10.62) and was edged out for fourth place by Lauren Penkala of Flagler (22:28.25).
Junior Alissa Furches finished 30th overall with a time of 23:58.72, followed by a trio of Tusculum runners who crossed the line consecutively. Sophomore Yoland Boyce was 115th overall in 26:37.24, with senior Makenzi Alley in 116th place in 26:42.07 and junior Brooklyn Smith in 117th place at 26:43.70. Freshman Judith Chepkirui was the final finisher for the Pioneers in 152nd place at 34:03.67.
Tusculum's team total of 374 points placed them seventh among the nine SAC schools competing at the meet, duplicating their finish at the conference championship from two weeks earlier.
Queens University of Charlotte put its top five finishers in the top 15 and won the team title with 50 points, followed by Flagler with 98 points and Anderson as the third national team qualifier with 129 points. Mount Olive (133 points) and North Georgia (153 points) rounded out the team top five.
Hodges, who was honorable mention All-SAC, ran the 10-kilometer course in 33:31.44 to finish 29th overall and 12th among all SAC competitors. Sophomore Jackson Beason was 56th overall with a time of 34:22.17, followed by junior T.J. Tupps in 62nd place at 34:27.94.
Junior Kyle Stanley finished in 104th place in a time of 36:26.94, and freshman Carson Walls was the Pioneers' fifth finisher in 134th place with a time of 39:09.45. Sophomore Isaac Hybarger also competed and was 145th overall in a time of 42:37.30.
Tusculum had 379 points as a team, placing them seventh among the 10 SAC schools that competed at the regional meet and equaling their final standing in the conference championship.
Queens won the men's regional title with five runners in the top 12 and a total of 34 points, followed by Mount Olive (78 points) and Augusta (103 points) as automatic qualifiers for the NCAA Division II National Championship. UNC Pembroke freshman Joshua Chepkesir beat Carson-Newman's Luke Greer to the line by just over a quarter-second to win the individual championship with a time of 31:09.96.
NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Cross Country Championships
at Oakwood, Georgia
Team: 1. Queens, 50; 2. Flagler, 98; 3. Anderson, 129; 4. Mount Olive, 133; 5. North Georgia, 153; 15. Tusculum, 374.
Tusculum finishers: 5. Nicole McMillen, 22:29.19; 30. Alissa Furches, 23:58.72; 115. Yolan Boyce, 26:37.24; 116. Makenzi Alley, 26:42.07; 117. Brooklyn Smith, 26:43.70; 152. Judith Chepkirui, 34:03.67.
Team: 1. Queens, 34; 2. Mount Olive, 78; 3. Augusta, 103; 4. UNC Pembroke, 107; 5. Anderson, 180; 14. Tusculum, 379.