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December 11, 2012

Tech men's cross country team wraps up great season with appearance at NCAA's

By: Jimmy Robertson

The Virginia Tech men’s cross country team made it to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1987, and the Hokies finished in 22nd place at the event held at E.P. ‘Tom’ Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 17. The team finish marked the program’s third-best finish at the NCAA Championships in five appearances at the nationals.

Will Mulherin, a redshirt senior from Yorktown, Va., led the Hokies, earning All-America honors for the second straight year. He finished in a tie for 28th place after running the course in 29 minutes, 52.7 seconds. He became the first men’s runner in Tech history to earn All-America honors twice during his career. His time was two tenths of a second back of his personal-best 10K time that he set at the NCAA Southeast Regional in Charlotte, N.C.

“It was a good race,” Mulherin said. “I kind of ran the same race as I did last year. I went out and tried to run with the lead pack, and get a really good improvement on my place from last year. About halfway through, I fell off a little bit and kind of battled back in the second half to stay with the group. I think, at one point, I was 35th, and over the last mile or two, I battled back to get into the 20s.”

“I’m really proud of Will Mulherin for becoming a two-time All-American,” Tech head coach Ben Thomas said. “A two-time All-American in cross country is really hard to do. There are not a lot of those guys out there, and he’s the first guy in our school’s history, so that’s a perfect cap to a perfect season for him.”

Tech’s next two finishers were junior Leoule Degfae in 82nd, followed by Thomas Curtin in 88th. Degfae’s time of 30:36.3 was more than 30 seconds faster than his previous best 10K time. Curtin, just like his teammate, improved his personal-best 10K with a 30:37.9 finish. It was less than 30 seconds better than his previous best. Both broke their top 10K times that they set at last year’s regional held on the same course.

Seniors Jason Cusack and Brian Welch were fourth and fifth among the Hokies. Cusack finished with a new personal-best 10K time of 32:04.4 while coming in 219th. Welch was two spots back of his teammate with a time of 32:05.2.

“Our top three guys ran well enough to be a top-10 team, but unfortunately, it takes five in cross country, and our four and five [runners] just didn’t have the backup that we’ve been having,” Thomas said. “Tommy Curtin and Lee Degfae, they’ll have opportunities to hopefully be back at this meet next year, and they certainly showed that they can step up and run well at this level.”

For the Hokies, both Michael Hammond and Kevin Dowd were unable to finish the race.

With his achievement of earning his second All-America accolade, Mulherin will go down as arguably the most accomplished male cross country runner in Tech’s history. He finished his career as a two-time All-American, a two-time All-Region performer, a three-time All-ACC performer while also leading the 2012 team to its first ACC Championship by winning the program’s first ACC individual championship.

“To become a two-time All-American is something that is difficult to get, but I hope it’s something people can do in the future at Virginia Tech,” Mulherin said. “I hope I’m not the only one for a while. I’m just happy to finish out my cross country eligibility like this.”