Talk about hitting your stride at the right time. Senior Ryan Gehman (Millersville, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) won Saturday’s South/Southeast Regional meet in Rome, Ga., headlining a great effort by EMU’s cross country men as they earned three individual All-Region honors, punched two tickets to Nationals, and took fifth place as a team.
Gehman led the field of 201 runners, breaking the tape of the 8k course in 25:32.36. He crossed a full two seconds ahead of ODAC rival Harrison Toney from Roanoke, who was second in 25:34.42. It was Gehman’s second individual win of the season, having also taken medalist honors at the Shenandoah Valley Invitational, but this win was obviously the biggest. Gehman not only earned his second consecutive All-Region honor with the finish, but earned the first spot out of the region at the NCAA National Championships, which are next Saturday in Mason, Ohio.
Fellow senior Jacob Landis (Sterling, Ill./Sterling) also earned himself one more race, as he finished 14th overall and claimed the final individual berth out of the region to Nationals. His time of 25:57.10 was nearly four seconds ahead of the next runner, and also put him as the seventh ODAC runner, giving him a big improvement after coming in tenth at the ODAC Championships. Landis also earned back-to-back All-Region accolades.
Sophomore Alec Thibodeaux (Staunton, Va./Fort Defiance) made the move up to also gain All-Region honors. He took 33rd with a time of 26:38.93. He was 43rd in the region last year.
Jared Nisly (Lancaster, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite), 51st – 27:09.83, and Jonathan Nisly (Bluffton, Ohio/Bluffton), 71st – 27:37.36, rounded out EMU’s top five, as the men totaled 170 points. They took fifth out of 28 as a team, one point ahead of Rhodes and just five behind Christopher Newport in fourth.
The team finish is the best regional mark in the “modern” era for Eastern Mennonite. The Royals were second in the region in 1979, in a race featuring just four teams. They won a seven-team meet in 1978.
“I was so proud of how the men came out and competed,” said Coach Jason Lewkowicz. “Their goal all year was to earn a top-5 region finish and they went out and did that in a tough region.”
Jordan Leaman (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) added to the top seven by coming in 79th in 27:46.80. Jesse Parker (Wichita, Kan./Wichita East) was 89th in 27:56.46.
Emory won the team title with 62 points, just ahead of ODAC rival Bridgewater with 65.
Gehman and Landis will be joined at Nationals by Kat Lehman (Dover, Ohio/Dover), who finished ninth in the women’s race and claimed their final berth. That meet is this coming Saturday in Ohio and will be run on the same course that the Royals used for the NCAA D-III Pre-Nationals on Sept. 27.