TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Belmont men's cross country team's sophomore sensations turned in another impressive performance at Friday's NCAA South Regional Championships, lifting the Bruins to 11th place.
Belmont put three runners in the top 50, each a redshirt sophomore, and all five scoring placers landed in the top 85 in amassing 262 team points. Belmont's 11th-place finish is one higher than last year. The last time Harry Pritchett Running Park's 10K course hosted Regionals in 2015, the Bruins tied for 10th in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Leading the way yet again was Kaleb McLeod (Soperton, Ga.), who ran to 21st place in a time of 31:33.5. His only other comparable time in his Belmont career, a 31:23.5, came on this same course. That was an 18th-place finish at the 2015 Regionals, but at a slightly shorter distance of 9.725 kilometers.
"Kaleb ran great. He kept moving up the whole race and ended up All-Region," Belmont Head Cross Country Coach and Program Director Jeff Langdon said, referring to McLeod's top-25 finish.
Fellow sophomores Declan McManus (Worcestershire, England) and Chase Ballard (Columbus, Ind.) provided support in finishing 42nd and 50th, respectively. McManus ran a 32:13.1 while Ballard came in at 32:28.8.
Ballard's time was a true personal record while McManus ran a 31:46.0 at the same slightly shorter 2015 Regionals 9.725K race.
Senior Luke Evans (Columbus, Ohio) checked in just behind the sophomores in 66th. His time of 33:14.5 was his best in a 10K in his four years at Belmont. Junior Kaden Eaton (Columbus, Ind.) rounded out the scoring for the Bruins in 83rd at 33:14.5.
"It can only keep getting better in the years to come," Langdon said of his high-performing underclassmen. "They ran great despite some adversity they faced late in the season. They learned a lot."
Middle Tennessee State walked away with the NCAA South Region title with 71 team points and Ole Miss came in second with 76. Both teams advance to next week's NCAA National Championships at Louisville, Ky.
Also advancing are Alabama's Gilbert Kigen (first overall in 29:44.5), Alfred Chelanga (second) and Vincent Kiprop (fourth), as well as Georgia Tech's Nahom Solomon (seventh). They were the top four individual placers not already qualifying as part of the MTSU and Ole Miss teams.
21. Kaleb McLeod, so., 31:33.5
42. Declan McManus, so., 32:13.1
50. Chase Ballard, so., 32:28.8*
66. Luke Evans, sr., 32:51.8*
83. Kaden Eaton, jr., 33:14.5
(130) Anthony Didion, sr., 34:43.2
(135) Ben Weisel, so., 34:59.8