King climbs to third in latest NCAA DII Southeast Region ranking

NEW ORLEANS, La. - The King College men's cross country team ran to the No. 3 spot in the newest edition of the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association NCAA Division II Southeast Region men's ranking, announced by the national organization.

The No. 3 regional ranking marks the highest for the Tornado squad this season. King had been No. 5 for the previous three weeks, up from a No. 6 spot on Sept. 21. The Tornado could earn a trip to the NCAA Division II National Championship with a top-three team finish at the NCAA Southeast Region Championship on Nov. 20. The date for the NCAA Division II National Championship is Dec. 4.

The Top-5 teams were the same cast of characters, just a flip as King went to No. 3, replacing Mars Hill (N.C.) College who went to No. 5. Queens (N.C.) University and Columbus State (Ga.) University were No. 1 and No. 2 for the sixth straight ranking. Mount Olive held onto the No. 4 spot.

Clayton State (Ga.) University started the next five. Lees McRae (N.C.) College was No. 7 again. UNC Pembroke, Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) and Augusta State (Ga.) University rounded out the Top-10. Augusta State made the Top-10 for the first time this season, knocking out Anderson (S.C.) University.

With the addition of Augusta State, the Peach Belt Conference had four teams in the ranking, Columbus State, Clayton State and UNC Pembroke. Conference Carolinas placed three teams in the ranking, Queens, Mount Olive and Lees-McRae. The South Atlantic Conference was represented by Mars Hill and Lenoir-Rhyne. King was the only independent squad in any of the region's Top-10 rankings.

The Tornado squad was able to see the course that the Southeast Region will be contested on at the Royal Cross Country Challenge Friday. King was ninth in the team standings as the squad had five runners break the 27-minute mark. In addition the school record was lowered for a second straight event.

Nassem Haje (Hagerstown, Md.) ran the event in 25 minutes and 45.1 seconds, 10 seconds faster than his previous school record.

Spencer Franton (Morristown, Tenn.) became just the second Tornado runner in program history to break the 26-minute mark with his 25:47.0 run. His time was a personal best by 34 seconds for the freshman. Daniel Hamilton (Franklin, N.C.) lowered his season best by 14 seconds and his personal best by 10 seconds as he finished at the 26:13.5 mark. Justin Humphreys (Bristol, Tenn.) ran the event 26:30.1 while Taylor Dix (Memphis, Tenn.) crossed the finish line in 26:48.2.

The next event for the Tornado squad will be the Cavalier Invitational in Charlottesville, Va. on Nov. 5.

The next regional ranking will be released on Tuesday, Oct. 26.