Area colleges: Vanderbilt cross country closes book on historic season

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 11:47pm

Before Vanderbilt’s top five runners had crossed the finished line on Monday, head coach Steve Keith had calculated the results — and they exceeded his expectations.

The Commodores ended their breakout season with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. It was Vanderbilt’s first trip to the national meet as a team, coming off the heels of their first Southeastern Conference championship.

“We did have the goals of reaching nationals ... but the girls looked at nationals as not just the icing on the cake but an opportunity to continue to make a statement,” Keith said. “They used that as even more motivation. Sometimes teams the first time they make it there are a little blown away or just happy to be there.

“We wanted to skip that happy-to-be-there phase.”

Staying consistent with being a second-half team, Vanderbilt picked up nine spots after being 15th at the 3K split. It finished just one point behind fifth-place Oregon and were the top SEC team.

As they have all season, the Commodores stayed in a tight pack as their top five runners finished in a span of 35 seconds.

Alexa Rogers paced the squad, finishing 39th in 20:30.3 as she became Vanderbilt’s first All-American. Her younger sister, Tosha, finished 57th for Texas A&M.

Liz Anderson just missed being Vanderbilt’s second All-American, placing 43rd. Jordan White (98th), Louise Hannallah (101st) and Kristen Smith (106th) rounded out the team’s top five. Vanderbilt also had two freshmen compete — Grace Orders and Amira Joseph.

“The podium [the top four] is not that far away,” Keith said. “The future does look good. I don’t think we’ll miss too much of a beat next year.”

• Receiving votes: Both Belmont and Middle Tennessee State are receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25 men’s basketball poll.

The Bruins (2-2) received six votes after they played three games in six days. After falling to No. 8 Memphis they bounced back against Towson and then knocked off MTSU in double overtime in Murfreesboro on Sunday in the regional championship of the Maui Invitational. It was the first loss for the Blue Raiders (4-1), who upset UCLA on the road last Tuesday and received two votes.

MTSU hosted Cumberland on Tuesday and plays at Austin Peay on Saturday. Belmont returns to action next Tuesday, hosting Trevecca Nazarene for its first home of the season.

• Three-peat: Lipscomb captured its third straight Atlantic Sun Conference tournament championship, earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The second-seeded Bisons swept top-seed Belmont in three sets on Saturday, avenging a loss last month that snapped Lipscomb’s 44-match conference winning streak.

Senior middle blocker Katie Rose was named the tournament MVP and outside hitter Lauren Ford and setter Abby Fay joined her on the all-tournament team.

Lipscomb (20-9) will wrap up the regular season at Xavier on Saturday. The Bisons will learn their NCAA Tournament seeding and destination at 4:30 p.m. Sunday (ESPNews). Lipscomb is headed to its fourth in NCAA Tournament in five years.

• TSU football honors: On Tuesday, TSU linebacker Rico Council was tabbed the league’s defensive player of the year. Quarterback Mike German was named the OVC’s freshman of the year.

Council, a senior, recorded 87 tackles (50 solo), eight tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception, five pass breakups, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. German, a redshirt freshman, is a finalist for the Sports Network’s Jerry Rice Award, given to the country’s top freshman. After serving as the team’s backup for the first three games, he took over as the starter against Air Force and didn’t look back. He finished with 1,899 passing yards and 12 touchdowns as the Tigers (5-6) won four of its last six games.

Seven TSU players earned all-OVC honors, with wide receiver Calvin McNairl and defensive back Joseph Wylie joined Council on the first team. Center Sherman Carter, offensive guard Kadeem Edwards, offensive tackle Rogers Gaines and defensive lineman Antonio Harper were placed on the second team.