The University of Richmond's men's cross country team was ranked 28th in the nation on Tuesday by the Pre-NCAA Championship Division I Coaches' Poll for the first time in team history.
The ranking was announced on Tuesday, giving Richmond 46 points as the only team represented in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Indiana State University will host the cross country national championship on Monday at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind.
Top runners Andrew Benford, Matthew Llano, Jonny Wilson and Tim Quinn reflected on a past of motivations and sacrifices that led to this point. Benford, Llano and Wilson are redshirt seniors. Quinn is a fourth-year senior.
The men's team won fourth place in the Southeast Regional Championship last Saturday, defeating top teams like Louisville University and the University of Virginia, in a victory that helped secure the at-large bid into the NCAA Championships. Only a small percentage of cross country teams reach the championships.
Nobody expected them to, but making it to the championships was the team's goal two years ago, Benford said.
Nothing in particular propelled the team to its national ranking this year, but rather, it's what they have been doing for years, Llano said: meticulous scheduling, practicing and dieting.
They said they were excited and looked forward to representing the Atlantic 10 conference in the championship. Some runners are hearing from relatives they haven't seen in years because of the team's recent series of victories, Quinn said, although most of the runners' families travel to meets often.
Their goal is to finish in the top 20 at the national championships to make sure people remember Richmond's name, Wilson said.
Richmond will be the first team head coach Steve Taylor takes to the championships. The runners said Taylor's coaching made them believe in themselves and that reaching the championships was possible.
Llano said, as prospective students some of them had been denied spots on teams and had been told they weren't good enough. They now compete and win against those schools.
Another obstacle the runners expressed was a lack of scholarships for the team. Men's track and field and cross country are the only teams that do not receive scholarships at Richmond because of Title IX, which orders that the total amount of athletic aid must be proportionate to the ratio of female to male athletes.
But such allocations seem difficult at Richmond with all-male teams like football and baseball, Quinn said. A lack of scholarships makes it difficult to recruit the talent necessary to win continually, Llano added.
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But that's not their only focus anymore. As fourth and fifth-year students, they said they hoped their improved performance could increase investments for future cross country recruits.
They do what they do because they love it, Benford said.
Contact reporter Keon Monroe at email@example.com
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