ABILENE – Alex Hernandez led the way for the Sam Houston State men and Hannah Tarrant paced the Bearkat women at the 2017 Southland Conference Championships on Friday morning from a chilly and windy ACU Cross Country Course.

The men garnered 141 points, finishing sixth in the 8K, backed by a 13th-place mark of 25:09.3 from Hernandez while the women tallied 244 points to take eighth in the 6K, helped by a 28th-place finisher from Tarrant (22:36.3).

The Sam Houston men posted four top-30 results with Jordan Leon taking 18th (25:16.5), Grant Buley securing 24th (25:25.0) and Jeffrey Moore taking 30th (25:45.0). Lamar and McNeese finished tied for the title (42 points) with the Cardinals winning the event on the tiebreaker.

Elsewhere for the Bearkats, David Zavala finished 58th (26:46.2) while Cameron Theriot took 72nd (27:47.4) and Stephen Southall went 80th (28:49.0). Of Sam Houston’s seven runners, six will return next season with Buley, a graduating senior, departing following a decorated career.

Host Abilene Christian took the women’s title with 44 points, overcoming cold and windy conditions to secure the top-three individual spots and four of the top-six overall. Lamar finished second with 73 points while putting three athletes in the top-14.

Sam Houston’s Meaghen Seales finished 38th (22:55.3) while Hailey Chorn took 54th (23:35.3) and Briana McCall finished 65th (23:57.4). Kassandra Luna secured 71st (24:41.8) and Denise Jones finished 74th (25:26.2). The conference race was the final for McCall while the other six runners return for the Bearkats next season.

For those athletes who qualify, the NCAA South Central Regional qualifying race will take place in two weeks (Nov. 10), hosted by Texas A&M. The 2017 NCAA Cross Country Championships will take place at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday, Nov. 18.

Head coach Jesse Parker on the overall results and the women’s finish…
“Not at all pleased with the outcome for either team. On the women’s side, eighth was about as good as we could have realistically expected with the injury issues we’ve had to overcome. Those that competed today did a good job.

Head coach Jesse Parker on the men’s finisher…
“For the men, sixth was a disappointment. I thought we should have been at worst fourth with a chance at third but nobody performed quite as well as expected. Part of it is needing a roster with more depth so we are just not relying on five guys. The other part is doing a better job of performing when it matters. We had a few guys that stepped up but we had a few that didn’t perform to the level they had performing all year and that is what cost us today.”

Head coach Jesse Parker on the discussions after the championships…
“I told them after the race that we all have to find a way to be better. I need to be a better coach and I need to recruit better. They need to perform better and learn to perform better when it matters. We are all going to be better.”