The South Central Region has been near the bottom of the barrel in terms of qualifying teams for the last couple years. As of right now, this region has no at-large projections and only one nationally ranked team in TSR#23 Arkansas. The Razorbacks have been the kings of the region for quite some time and look primed to repeat on their regional title from last season. The only team that could maybe give Arkansas some challenge is Texas. After these two, the rest of the field will need to have very good days in order to have even the slightest chance at qualification.
As was stated above, the Razorbacks are the only ranked team in the region and should have no problem making it to Nationals. They recently finished 2nd behind Ole Miss at the SEC Championships, while Gilbert Boit won the individual title. He should look to be a deep individual favorite going into Friday. Behind Boit, the Razorbacks carry a solid core of men that should help keep them at the front. Cameron Griffith joined his teammate with first team All-Conference honors, while Ryan Murphy and Ethan Moehn garnered second team honors. Barring any surprises, Arkansas looks to be pretty safe in securing the victory and qualification tomorrow.
The number two team in the region for much of the season, the Longhorns of Texas look to be a fairly safe lock to qualify to the National Championships. By virtue of their region, they have one of the easiest paths to Nationals. They finished 3rd at BIG 12's behind Iowa State and Oklahoma. They don’t carry much in terms of Kolas points, which in part explains why the region lacks any viable at-large bids.
Texas finished way back at Nuttycombe in 22nd place. Despite this finish, they have some quality tools and should look to use those to advance to the next round. Alex Rogers, Sam Worley, and John Rice carry potent firepower up front and that should help keep them secure the automatic qualifier. Charles Mills and Garek Bielaczyc both finished within the top 25 at Big 12's to keep the scoring gap small. If they can maintain this form, there is no reason why this team should not qualify to Wisconsin.
The current number three team in the region right now is also a Texan squad. The men of UTRGV will have a lot of work cut out for them if they are to upset one of the incumbents and make it to the big dance. They have no projected Kolas points and haven’t really competed anywhere where they would have a shot of earning any. Therefore, the only way of making it will be to finish within one of the top two auto-qualifier positions. This is a tall order considering the quality of the two teams in front of them, but stranger things have happened.
The Vaqueros come off of a recent 2ne place finish at the WAC Championships behind Utah Valley, another team with no serious Kolas implications. At those championships, UTRGV had their best team performance in school history, with an average team time of 24:47 over the 8k distance. Omer Almog and Abraham Chirchir finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively. After that, they will need their remaining scoring trio of Ricardo Mendoza, Tristan Pena, and Brian Yanez to close the gap. If the Vaqueros are to have any shot of knocking off Texas or Arkansas, they will need to have the absolute most perfect day, and maybe hope for some bad days from their competitors.
1. Arkansas Razorbacks
2. Texas Longhorns
3. UTRGV Vaqueros
4. Texas A&M Aggies
5. UT Arlington Mavericks
1. Gilbert Boit (Arkansas)
2. Cameron Griffith (Arkansas)
3. Alex Rogers (Texas)
4. Sam Worley (Texas)
5. Omer Almog (UTRGV)