Bucs' Varghese earns return trip to NCAA's national meet

Tanner Cook • Updated Nov 15, 2019 at 7:16 PM

For the second straight year, East Tennessee State and former Daniel Boone standout Ben Varghese has qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

The Buccaneer junior earned an automatic spot in the national meet after finishing fifth in Friday’s NCAA South Regional from Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida.

Varghese, who posted his 12th career top-five finish, crossed the finish line in 30:12.5 on the 10-kilometer course. He earned a spot in the NCAA Championships after securing one of the top four spots from a non-advancing team in 169-runner field.

He is the first ETSU runner to qualify as an individual for consecutive NCAA cross country championship races since Seamus Power in 1993 and 1994.

Varghese was in 21st at the 3,000 meters mark and 19th at the midway point.

However, Varghese made a strong move late as he was seventh with 1K left and needed to pass Lipscomb’s Brent Leber to secure one of the qualifying spots. Varghese closed the gap and finished 14 seconds ahead of Leber, who was the first non-individual qualifier.

“Ben and Adam (Bradtmueller) ran great races and I am proud of both of them,” said head coach George Watts. “Obviously, Ben qualifying for the NCAA Championship for the second year in a row is huge for the program and especially him. He ran as perfect a race as possible, and as a result, did not go to the well today like he did last year."

The NCAA Cross Country Championships will be held next Saturday at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country course in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Ole Miss and Middle Tennessee State captured the two team qualifying spots as the 11th-ranked Rebels won by 14 points over No. 15 MTSU, 69 to 83.

The Buccaneer men finished 10th with 259 points, beating out Tennessee — which placed 12th with 320 points.

ETSU finished as the fourth-best team in the state, behind MTSU, Lipscomb and just 13 points behind Belmont.

Senior Bradtmueller placed 28th in 31:14.9, while junior Noah Charles came in 57th with a mark of 31:52.1.

Matt Scarr and Malick Gemechu provided the other two scoring marks for the Blue & Gold as they placed 78th and 97th.

"I'm happy for Ben since he had a tough track season and a little bit of a rough patch in the middle of this season," Watts said. "He ran a well-thought-out race, letting the lead guys go out early and picked off about four or five runners every kilometer. He ran what he is capable of running and we're all very proud of him.

"It's funny because Ben looked at the Old Farmer's Almanac to see what the weather is going to be for next week. It's supposed to be in the 40s and a little bit of rain, which is better than the snow and the cold last year in Madison. He'll be ready to run, that's for sure."

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