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Two tickets for NCAAs

The University of South Florida’s cross country teams entered the South Regional race with a chance to advance to the NCAA Championships, but both teams came up short. However, two individuals did manage to qualify for the Nov. 25 race in Terre Haute, Ind.

Senior Andrew Smith and sophomore Christa Benton both managed to qualify individually, extending their seasons and giving themselves the opportunity to run against the nation’s best.In the team competitions, the women just missed qualifying, finishing in third place. Tennessee finished in first with 72 points, followed by Florida State with 74 and USF with 83.

“We’re really disappointed as to the outcome of the meet,” USF coach Greg Thiel said. “Our No. 5 runner didn’t run well. However, our No. 1 through 4 runners ran hard. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”

Benton led the women, finishing third in 21 minutes, 45.63 seconds. Senior Kristy Fuller finished 13th (22:33.34), Bente General 16th (22:36.50), Jessica Hellender 21st (22:49.32) and Cori Kill 34th (23:16.96).

The women failed to reach the NCAA Championships for the fifth consecutive year. However, four runners earned All-South Region honors: Benton, Fuller, Hellender and General.

Smith, who returns to nationals for the first time since 2000, once again led the men’s team. The team finished in 11th place. Tennessee won the team portion with 51 points, followed by Alabama (79) and Florida (95). Smith finished ninth overall in 32:38.63.

Three Tennessee runners and two Alabama runners finished ahead of Smith in the individual competition. Since both teams qualified, the individual runners already advanced to the national meet. Therefore, their places weren’t counted in the individual race, which allowed Smith to sneak in as the fourth and final individual runner to qualify.

Freshman Sean Burris was the next Bull to cross the finish line, placing 53rd in 34:07.12. Fellow freshman Derek Lincoln finished 108th (37:30.43), Raymond Chumbley 114th (37:53.92) and Tony Gretch placed 119th (38:09.03).

Both cross country teams’ seasons are over since they failed to qualify for nationals. Benton and Smith have one more opportunity to run, with a chance to become an All-American.

Adam Adkins covers USF cross country and can be reached at