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Back-to-back NCAA berths for Bucs' Varghese

Tanner Cook • Nov 17, 2019 at 8:00 AM

JOHNSON CITY — East Tennessee State’s Ben Varghese qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championships for a second consecutive year.

The junior, a former Daniel Boone standout, earned an automatic spot in the national meet after finishing fifth in Friday’s NCAA South Regional at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida.

Varghese crossed the finish line in 30:12.5 on the 10-kilometer course for his 12th career top-five finish. He gained his national berth by securing one of the top four spots from a non-advancing team in the 169-runner field.

Varghese became the first ETSU cross country runner to qualify as an individual for back-to-back national meets since Seamus Power in 1993 and 1994.

Varghese was in 21st place at the 3,000-meter mark and in 19th at the midway point before making a move.

He pulled into seventh with 1K left and needed to pass Lipscomb’s Brent Leber to secure a qualifying spot. Varghese closed the gap and then crossed 14 seconds ahead of Leber, who was the first non-individual qualifier.

“Ben and Adam (Bradtmueller) ran great races and I am proud of both of them,” said Bucs coach George Watts. “Obviously, Ben qualifying for the NCAA championship for the second year in a row is huge for the program, and especially him. He ran as perfect a race as possible.”

The NCAA Cross Country Championships will be held on Saturday at the LaVern Gibson course in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Mississippi and Middle Tennessee State captured the team qualifying spots, the 11th-ranked Rebels compiling 69 points to 83 for the No. 15 Blue Raiders.

ETSU finished 10th with 259 points. Tennessee was 12th with 320.

Bradtmueller, a senior, finished in 28th place with a time of 31:14.9. ETSU junior Noah Charles came in 57th (31:52.1). Matt Scarr (78th) and Malick Gemechu (97th) provided the Bucs’ other scoring marks.

“I’m happy for Ben since he had a tough track season and a little bit of a rough patch in the middle of this season,” Watts said. “He ran a well-thought-out race, letting the lead guys go out early and picking off about four or five runners every kilometer. He ran what he is capable of running and we’re all very proud of him.

“It’s funny because Ben looked at the Old Farmer’s Almanac to see what the weather is going to be for next week. It’s supposed to be in the 40s and a little bit of rain, which is better than the snow and the cold last year in Madison. He’ll be ready to run, that’s for sure.”

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