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The Columbia men's cross country team and first-year standout Waverly Neer are headed for the 2011 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship.
Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics/Gene Boyars

Columbia Men, Waverly Neer Earn Bids to 2011 NCAA Cross Country Championships

Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics
          Release: 11/13/2011
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INDIANAPOLIS - After Saturday's third-place finish at the 2011 NCAA Northeast Region Championship at Audubon Golf Course, the Columbia men's cross country team made history on Sunday, earning an at-large team bid for the 2011 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship to give the Lions their first men's team invite in program history. Standout first-year Waverly Neer will also make her debut at the NCAA Championships as she earned an automatic individual bid after placing fifth at the Northeast Regionals.

Indiana State University will host the Championships, Nov. 21, at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course located at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind.  The men's race will begin at approximately 12:08 p.m. (Eastern Time), followed by the women's race at approximately 12:58 p.m.  A live webcast of the championships will be broadcast from noon to 1:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 21, on NCAA.com.  In addition, highlights from the championships will be included as part of the CBS NCAA Fall Seasonal Show scheduled to air on Saturday, Dec. 18 from 1-2 p.m. on CBS HD.   

In order to be eligible to participate in the championships, teams and individuals qualified in their respective NCAA regional competitions.

Thirty-one teams were selected to participate in each championship.  The top two, seven-person teams automatically qualified from each of the nine regions, for a total of 18 teams.  Thirteen additional teams were selected at-large.

Thirty-eight individuals were selected to participate in each championship through an automatic qualifier and at-large selection process.  All individual qualifiers finished in the top 25 in their region.

The No. 22 Columbia men had a dominating performance at the NCAA Northeast Regionals, placing five runners in the top 23. Junior Mike Murphy led the way with a 14th-place showing in the men's 10K, clocking in with a time of 31:40.9. The Lions men's team also consists of seniors Kyle Merber and Justin Heck, juniors Leighton Spencer and Ben Veilleux and sophomores Nico Composto and Jake Sienko.

The Lions' impressive season resume and national ranking in the USTFCCCA NCAA Division I Men's Cross Country National Coaches' Poll made a strong case for their at-large bid. Columbia took second at the 2011 Ivy League Cross Country Heptagonal Championships on Oct. 29. Before that, the Lions finished ahead of a slew of ranked teams when they finished third in the Paul Short Run Presented by Brooks (Sept. 30) and 18th in the Wisconsin adidas Invitational (Oct. 14).

Neer, who overcame an early-season back injury, has been nothing but sensational in her last three races. She took fifth at the NCAA Northeast regionals with a 6K time of 20:44.6. She had gutsy second-place showing in the snow and frigid conditions at the 2011 Ivy League Cross Country Heptagonal Championships on Oct. 29. Neer made her season debut with a 72nd-place finish in a loaded 305-runner field at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Oct. 14.

Columbia sent two athletes to the 2010 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship in Thomas Poland and Caroline McDonough. Poland placed 162nd out of 246 runners in the men's 10K. McDonough finished just shy of earning All-America status (awarded to the top 40) when she placed 43rd out of 253 runners in the women's 6K.

Columbia last fielded a team to the national championships in 2005 when the Lions women took 13th and Caroline Bierbaum finished second overall.

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