Win sends seven runners to nationals and earns McIntyre ‘Coach of the Year’ honors
The Brenau University Cross Country team won its first Southern States Athletic Conference championship Saturday, Nov. 9, with a complete team effort.
The conference win earned the Golden Tigers an automatic bid to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics U.S. championship meet Nov. 23 in Rim Rock, Kan., and Coach Susan McIntyre selection as SSAC “Coach of the Year.”
The Tigers, which finished fourth in the SSAC a year ago, were not expected to claim the top spot. However, Brenau slipped past newcomer Blue Mountain College by one point, showing outstanding depth and consistency. The top seven Brenau runners finished in 4th, 6th, 9th, 11th, 28th, 33rd and 34th places.
Although the top four runners would have automatically qualified for participation in nationals, by winning the conference title the Tigers get to take all seven runners to the big show in Kansas.
Junior Brittany Aikens of Braselton, Ga., led the Golden Tigers, finishing fourth overall with a time of 19:21. Sophomore Utami Ketchem of Flowery Branch, Ga., finished close behind in sixth place with a time of 19:26. The Golden Tigers claimed two more top 12 finishes as freshman Natalie Williams of Dalton, Ga., and sophomore Deshanie’ Honeycutt of Stone Mountain, Ga., finished in ninth and 11th.
Tori Mullinax of Gainesville, Ga., who has battled through injuries, finished 28th with a time of 20:22.
“This meet is the first time Tori has run hard in weeks,” said Coach McIntyre, praising the freshman for her resiliency and dedication. “She wasn’t totally healed by any means, but she wanted to contribute to her team, and she did in a big way. Because of her finish, our top seven advance to nationals.”
Jasmine Ray of Appling, Ga., and Tyana Luna, of Lawrenceville, Ga., finished 33rd and 34th to round out the top seven.
“My motto has always been ‘champions are made when no one is watching,’ and our win yesterday is because my team also believes in this,” said McIntyre. “I have never been prouder to wear the name Brenau University XC team on my shirt as I was yesterday!”
McIntyre also credited her assistant coach for his dedication to the team concept.
“This team would not have earned this win without the help of assistant coach Sean Robison,” McIntyre said. “It was a great team effort all season not just at practice, but as a team.”
Team and Individual Honors
Top 5 freshmen:
2nd Natalie Williams,
5th Tori Mullinax
Newcomer of the Year:
Sophomore Utami Ketchem
SSAC All-Academic Team:
(3.25 or above and at least sophomore)
NAIA Daktronics Scholar Award
(3.50 GPA, juniors and seniors only)
Senior Ana Lopera
Junior Brittany Aikens
Champion of Character Award
Sophomore Tyana Luna (Second consecutive year)
SSAC Coach of the Year