NEW YORK - The No. 20 Columbia men's cross-country team will compete on the biggest stage on Saturday, Nov. 17 at the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Ky.
The 75th annual men's cross country NCAA National Championships will be hosted by Louisville at the E.P. 'Tom' Sawyer State Park. The men's 10k-race will start at approximately 1:18 p.m., following the women's race that begins at noon.
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. An additional 13 teams were selected at-large.
"We feel like we are in a better position to run that we have the entire year. We have seven guys who are at their very best in terms of fitness, we are coming off a phenomenal race at regionals, and I think everybody is ready to run better than they have all year, " said Head Coach of Cross Country, Willy Wood.
On Friday, Nov. 9 the men's cross country team made program history at the Northeast Regional, placing four runners in the top-15 to capture an automatic bid to the NCAA National Champions with a second-place finish. The 72-point total was enough to edge regional rankings leader No. 14 Syracuse by one point.
The Lions were led by USTFCCCA All-Region honorees, junior Jake Sienko (seventh-place, 30:29.4), seniors Mark Feigen (11th, 30:32.2), seniors Mike Murphy (12th, 30:34.8) and Leighton Spencer (15th, 30:36.2) in Madison, Conn.
Columbia is no stranger to the Louisville course as they competed in the Louisville Pre-National Classic race earlier this season. The Lions defeated schools like Michigan State and Georgia who are in the field on Saturday.
This marks the second time in school history the men's team heads to the National Championships. Last season, Columbia received an at-large the 2011 NCAA National Championships and placed 27th with a team score of 591 in the teams first ever appearance. Murphy clocked in at 30:59.2 to take 125th-place, Sienko (175th, 31:28.3) and Spencer (176th, 31:28.4) in Terre Haute, Ind.
"Our goal last year was to make National's and see what we can do, but this year it was past that. We were making nationals but wanted to run well and place top-20," said first-team All-Ivy League honoree Leighton Spencer.