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Tiger runners set for regional




Fort Hays State University coach Jason McCullough believes it's "going to be tough" for any Tiger runner to qualify for the national meet from the South Central Regional championships this Saturday. Instead, McCullough is having his runners focus on finishing in the top-15 and earning all-region honors.

"That gives them a shot to qualify," McCullough said. "Probably top five is what it's going to take to qualify, so they have a shot, but all-region is something I think they should be shooting for."

University of Central Missouri hosts the regional in Warrensburg, Mo. The men's 10,000-meter race starts at 10:30 a.m., while the women's 6,000-meter run begins at 11:30 a.m. No Tiger runner has qualified for nationals since Bridget Brown earned 64th place in 2006. Several runners, namely Jay Lindal in 2008, have come close to qualifying.

"We have had some good runners," McCullough said. "We just have not had the runners that have stepped up to the point where they have been able to qualify for nationals. I am not disappointed with how they have done over the years because they have all improved and ran well -- just not well enough."

The men finished sixth and the women fifth at the MIAA championships on Nov. 6 on their home course, a performance that left McCullough "a bit disappointed."

On Saturday, McCullough would like to see top-5 finishes from his teams. The top three women's teams and the top two men's teams qualify for nationals.

"What I want to see them do is improve from week to week and improve from meet to meet," McCullough said. "I think we have a good shot at being in the top five with both teams and I think if we do that, it can be a successful season, but obviously the goal for just about every team is to qualify for nationals. That would be huge. but realistically, a top five finish would be a success for us."

At conference, FHSU had five runners pick up all-MIAA honorable mention honors. On the men's side, senior Cameron Rieth and junior Tanner Christensen earned 12th and 15th place. For the women, junior Heidi Hines, a Garden City Community College transfer, collected a 16th place finish, while seniors Hali Mobley and Amie Algrim came in 19th and 20th. Hines started the year as one of the top-5 Tiger runners and conference represented her first race as Fort Hays' lead runner. Hines has lowered her personal record in the 5-kilometer run by almost a minute and seen a significant improvement in 6-kilometers.

"I have really come a lot farther with my running this season," Hines said. "I am really happy with how I have been running."

Coming out of high school, Hines, an O'Neill, Neb. native, believed junior college was her best option.

"I am really glad that I did go to Garden City Community College," Hines said. "I think it made me a lot stronger before I came here. ... At Garden City, I knew of quite a few teammates that came here and I knew about the program. It just seemed to be a pretty good fit for me to transfer to."

In the middle of the season, McCullough moved Hines to the Tigers' lead training group with Mobley, Algrim and sophomore Gentry Linscott.

"At first, it was a little bit intimidating for her and then she really started to latch on to them and run with them," McCullough said.

"That's when I really started to see the improvement."

On Saturday, Hines would like to finish her season strong with another solid meet.

"I would like to get all-region," she said. "That would be pretty awesome, but I also really want to hope that our team can qualify for nationals because that would be really cool. I am just going to try my hardest to help my team get into the top three spots."

Sport Date Opponent Score
2/18 SW Baptist L 66-53
12/1 Oklahoma - Panhandle L 66-60 (OT)