Smith, Benton go for NCAA title in Indiana

Two University of South Florida cross country runners will compete in the NCAA Championships today in Terre Haute, Ind., with a chance to earn All-American status among the nation’s elite competition.

Senior Andrew Smith and sophomore Christa Benton are the only Bulls running in today’s national meet. Both qualified individually two weeks ago at the South Regional meet by finishing among the top four individual runners not on a team that finished in the top two.

The top 25 runners in the men’s and women’s race each earn All-American status.

However, even if either runner should fail to crack the top 25, each one has had an outstanding season.

Both Benton and Smith led their teams all season long. Each won individual meets in the season and finished as their teams’ top runner in each race.

“They both deserve to be here,” Coach Greg Thiel said. “It just shows the level the two run at. They each have a shot to be in the top 25.”

Smith’s collegiate cross country running concludes today with a chance to put an exclamation point on an outstanding career.

“If he finishes All-American, it would define his career at USF,” Thiel said.

For Benton, this is her second trip to nationals, but her first as an individual qualifier. She will have a couple more opportunities to reach nationals since this is only her second year at USF.

Adam Adkins