BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- Chattanooga senior runner Emmanuel Kirwa (Kapsabet, Kenya) finished eighth overall at the NCAA Cross Country South Regional Saturday morning at Veterans Park in Birmingham, Ala., and earned a spot at the NCAA National Championships later this month.
"He backed off," Head Coach Bill Gautier said. "He said he was saving it for the nationals. He knew he was the fourth guy and he ran under control."
Kirwa, a three-time Southern Conference Runner of the Year, ran the 10-kilometer race in a time of 30:22.31 and was the fourth individual finisher in the race. He bettered his time in the event by more than 38 seconds.
Junior Chris Berry (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) was 20th in the race with a time of 30:44.56 despite falling during the event. "He might have had a shot," Gautier said of Berry's chance of a possible at-large bid. Nathan Wanuch was the Mocs third finisher in the race with a time of 31:55.65 placing 46th out of 147 runners.
Alabama won the race with a team score of 30 that included four in the Top Eight. Florida State, paced by overall champion Ciaran O'Lionaird with a time of 30:03.34, was second with a team score of 55. Both teams earned automatic qualifications to the NCAA National Championships.
Individuals Dumisani Hlaselo of Florida (4), Barnabas Kirui of Ole Miss (6), Auburn's Ben Cheruiyot (7) and Kirwa were the top four individuals not on a qualifying team and earned a spot in the Nationals to be run in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 22.
The Mocs placed sixth overall with a score of 157, just seven points behind instate foe Tennessee. Chattanooga placed ahead of Ole Miss, Belmont, Kennesaw State and Mississippi State.
"We beat some pretty good teams," Gautier said. "I'm really pumped."
In the women's race, the Lady Mocs placed 12th overall led by senior Anneli Uys (Somerville, Australia) who finished 40th overall with a time of 21:15.52 over the 6K course.
"The women did what they were supposed to do," Gautier said. The Lady Mocs finished ahead of teams from Georgia Tech, Miami and Tennessee.
Tara Gietema (Knoxville, Tenn.) was Chattanooga's second finisher in 60th place overall with a time of 21:52.35. Kathryn Stuart (Brentwood, Tenn.) and Mary Cumbee (Brentwood, Tenn.) were 80th and 81st respectively for UTC and Shelley Taylor (Cohutta, Ga.) rounded out the scoring runners for UTC with a 92nd place finish out of 186 competitors.
Florida State won top honors in the women's race with 24 points and all five scoring runners finishing in the Top Eight. Florida was a distant second with 67 points and will join the Seminoles as automatic qualifiers. Georgia's Kristie Krueger was the overall champion with a time of 19:52.93. Other individual qualifiers include Hollie Knight of Auburn (5), Mackenzie Howe of Kennesaw State (8) and Vanderbilt's Jordan White (11).
Kirwa is the first Chattanooga runner since 2006 to advance to the National Championship and the first male runner since Ian Mayne in 2005.