LEXINGTON, Va.- Sophomore Donnie Mikels earned All-Big South Conference honors and led VMI to a second-place finish at the 2005 New Balance Big South Conference Men's Cross-Country Championship. The runner-up finish matches the Keydets' best result since the team won the 1960 Southern Conference Championship.
"At best I thought that we might end up in second place on the men's side, or maybe in third place," said VMI head coach Paul Spangler. "Our top two guys probably didn't run as well as they could have, but Ben Switzer, Pat Eggleston and Jared Klajnbart stepped up and did a phenomenal job today. Over the past three years, we've gone from 7th place, to 4th place to now second place, and I see this program making major steps in the right direction."
Mikels (Rustburg, Va.) recorded a time of 25:52, finishing in seventh place overall and becoming VMI's first Big South All-Conference performer since joining the League three years ago. Mikels was finished closely by sophomore Ben Switzer (Rockbridge Baths, Va.), who finished in 26:06, good enough for 11th overall. Freshman Pat Eggleston (Nokesville, Va.) was the third Keydet finisher, coming in 15th overall with a time of 26:29. Rounding out the scoring for VMI was junior Anthony Harris (Orlando, Fla.) with a time of 26:37 (18th overall), and freshman Jared Klajnbart (Colorado Springs, Colo.) with a time of 26:51 (22nd overall).
Each of the Keydets' other five runners were not far behind, as VMI grabbed five of the next 22 spots to help push down the other teams' scoring. Coming in 25th overall with a 26:59 was Edwin Lugo, while Kurt Able finished 29th with a 27:08. Freshman Andrew Rademaker was the eighth Keydet finisher, coming in 38th overall (27:31), followed by junior Graham Forbes in 40th overall (27:40) and senior Shawn Hogan (27:52) in 44th overall.
The overall champion for the second-straight season was Liberty sophomore Josh McDougal, who shattered his own course record by 27 seconds, finishing the 8,000 meter course at 24:00. McDougal has won every race he has entered this season and is considered one of the favorites to win the NCAA Individual Championship this year. Coming in second was High Point's Tomas Kovacs (25:14), while Nelson Oliveira (25:30) finished third. Liberty took the next three spots, as Clint Jackson (25:30), Jarvis Jelen (25:32) and Evan Falat (25:45) helped to give the Flames four of the top six runners in the race.
The team competition was won by Liberty, with an overall team score of 26 points. VMI's second-place total of 73 points ranked just seven points ahead of High Point's 80. Coastal Carolina just missed third place with their total of 81 points, while UNC Asheville took fifth place. High Point had won the previous three Championships, while VMI matched their performance from 1980, the last time they placed second in the Southern Conference Championship.
The meet was hosted by VMI at the Virginia Horse Center. This marked the first time since VMI joined the League three years ago that the Keydets had hosted the meet.
"I thought that the Championships came off great," said Spangler. The venue at the Virginia Horse Center was outstanding. I thought that John Scott and the rest of the Virginia Horse Center staff did an excellent job, and we would like to thank them for allowing us to host the event there."
The men's team will return to action in two weeks, when they compete in Greenville, N.C. at the NCAA Regional Championships on Nov. 15.