the 2010 NCAA

The Longhorns placed first at the NCAA South Central Regional Championship meet in Waco on Saturday. The win earned Texas an automatic bid to the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

“I think winning the regional is the first step of a long process that we started here four years ago,” said head coach Steve Sisson. “This is a step in part of a long extended push in this program to be the best in the country.”

The team placed four runners in the top 10, leading to a 46-point victory. Rice followed with 71 points, and then came Arkansas, Baylor and Texas A&M.

There was laughter and smiles all around at the 6K’s finish line, where Sisson called his runners rock stars.

Junior Mia Behm led the Longhorns with a second-place finish in 20:20.5. Freshman Marielle Hall finished in fifth 20 seconds later. Julie Amthor took sixth, Sara Sutherland ninth, Laleh Mojtabaeezamani 25th, Megan Siebert 27th and Allison Mendez 38th.

Points were totaled using the top five finishers from each team. The five Texas scorers posted 6K career best times. The Longhorns had aimed to put as many runners in the top 15 as possible — four of the top five scorers finished in the top 10.

“My five, six and seven were not very strong today,” Sisson said. “Mia and Marielle did the lion’s share of work throughout the race, and I was really happy with their run. But really, it was a full team effort.”

The Longhorns had a disappointing finish at the Big 12 meet Oct. 30, and used the regional meet as an opportunity to prove their strength as a team.

“It’s the road to the NCAA Championships, and it’s a process where we can get ahead of ourselves,” Sisson said. “So, I spent the last two weeks making sure everyone knew what the region meet meant.”

The Longhorns were able to accomplish their goal of winning the meet, and now they are preparing for their first NCAA Championship meet since 2002.

“It was a tough competition and definitely a testament to our team,” Sisson said. “We turned a corner in the program today and we’re beginning to prove that we belong on the national stage.”